Thursday, October 29, 2020

Another Skills of Tomorrow Pitch

Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat has made a small hobby out of tracking one of the pervasive made-up statistics of education-- "65% (or 80% or what-have-you) of the jobs that this years kindergartners will fill don't exist yet." Well, the folks at the World Economic Forum have another variation on this kind of crystal ball data theme-- "50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025."

Fortunately, I guess, WEF's Future of Jobs Report knows exactly which ten skills will be needed. And they are floridly optimistic:

"We have the tools at our disposal. The bounty of technological innovation which defines our current era can be leveraged to unleash human potential," says the Forum's Founder and Executive Chairman, Professor Klaus Schwab.

So what does the bounty of technological innovation tell us? Let's look at this list of the Top Ten Skills of 2025, not because it's a good list, but because this is the kind of list business folks start throwing at education in an attempt to fix it, and forewarned is forearmed.

Analytical thinking and innovation
Active learning and learning strategies
Complex problem-solving
Critical thinking and analysis
Creativity, originality and innovation
Leadership and social influence
Technology use, monitored and controlled
Technology design and programming
Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
Reason, problem-solving and ideation

Also, in 2025, the Oxford comma will not be a necessary skill. 

That's a lot more than ten, and I'm not sure that any of them are "skills." But here we see the same problem manifest that we found in Common Core-- the notion that there are a bunch of intellectual free-floating skills that can be somehow mastered separate from any sort of content. That someone can be good at complex problem-solving and so, once they have somehow been trained in that skill in some content-free vacuum, they can solve complex problems whether they're in a vegan restaurant kitchen, a neurosurgery theater, or a nuclear physics lab. 

Nor am I sure why these "skills" are rising to prominence now, as if they weren't equally critical right now, or last year, or last decade. 

But if you're concerned about any of this, WEF looked to on-line education purveyor Coursera to provide some estimates of how long it would take to whip up these skills. You'll be happy to know that skills related to People and Culture, Content Writing, Sale and Marketing--just one or two months for those babies. Who knew that content writing could be polished off so quickly? Do you have to know anything about the actual content? Product Development and Data and AI skills, only two or three months, and on the high end, Cloud Computing and Engineering skills can be yours in four or five months. All this, mind you, via computer, using technology to unleash human potential. Woohoo.

The World Economic Forum is all about advancing public private partnerships. I just want to remind educators that when you hear business people offer half-baked shallow ideas about education, you're not crazy to think that their amateur-hour advice is not helpful. 

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