Our Future Workforce and the Moving Target

Many friends, family members, and coworkers have asked me to explain the Kenan Fellows Program to them. I usually explain that as teachers, we typically teach lessons based on standards given to us from above. We cross our fingers, hoping that we are preparing our students for a successful future. We don’t really have a realistic view of what we are actually preparing our students for, and that’s a problem. This program is the bridge that fills that knowledge divide. I now know what I am preparing my students for, and that has made everything change for me.

I have learned that careers these days, no matter what, require certain skills from the employee. Members of the workforce need to be adept at communicating with others, organizing themselves, and thinking through problems critically and independently. From a front-lines warehouse worker to a big-picture board room executive, these soft skills are a requirement. My takeaway is that I don’t need to imagine that I am preparing my students for a specific job or career path. I am preparing my students to be such savvy thinkers and members of society that they could be ready for anything…and that’s a good realization, because the workforce is a moving target.

Even less than a decade ago, I taught in elementary schools where the directive was to push students towards college. It was brainwashing with the best intentions. My students knew that they would graduate college in the year 2023 because we had that posted on the walls. Our groups in class shared names with major universities. I bought into the fact that college was the ring I wanted my students to catch. Things have changed recently. We now realize that there are amazing jobs out there that don’t require a 4-year degree. Without those people, our industries would shut down. Currently, I feel like the target is moving again. Industry is becoming more automated. Workers need to be more technologically aware. Teachers need to adapt as well. I plan to stay in touch with industry professionals so that I am sure that my instruction reflects reality. Let’s try to stay ahead of the game as much as possible so that we are preparing our students for the world of tomorrow.

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