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What does a Smart Dust Wrangler do? What about a Memory Optimiser? Yes, these jobs are real, or they will be. They are but two of the jobs students of today may graduate to. They are listed among 100 other predicted future jobs in a report published by Deakin University midway through last year – they sound equally as far-out. But experts assure us there is no need to panic at the sight of these futuristic-sounding and, frankly mysterious-sounding jobs. Teachers are already doing all the right things to get their students prepared. This week, School Stream looks at some of the key skills students will need to be future-proof.

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The future needs people who are adaptive

As educators increasingly wonder how they are to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet, it may be reassuring to know they are already on the front foot. A common theme to many futuristic professions is that they are all heavily reliant on skills and traits that are inherently human. You cannot automate social and emotional skills, nor can you automate complicated problem solving, resilience, flexibility, creativity, negotiation, emotional intelligence, coordination and collaboration. We hear about these so-called ‘soft skills’ all the time but they are imperative, no matter what kind of work future our students pursue. A recent LinkedIn study reports that the top five soft skills most in demand for 2020 are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence. Any teacher reading this can probably point to many examples in their classrooms where they are embedding those skills in their students every day. You know what they say: collaborative problem solvers are made in the classroom, not born! A commitment to lifelong learning is something teachers dream of instilling in their students and as it happens, is set to be a trait that is highly valued in the future.  

Reasons to be cheerful 

The future of work may bring a lot of challenges and uncertainty – the fear of losing jobs to automation is certainly not to be denied – but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic too. Digital technology and innovation have been part of our reality for at least ten years. Things like streaming movies and music, ordering just about anything under the sun online, and even sending alerts to your school community via an app are all relatively new ideas. Yet for most of us, they have gone from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’ very quickly. With health and the environment set to see the greatest gains due to technology, we can only hope the future brings more innovation that will benefit all of us and give everyone the opportunity to do meaningful work. We should be reassured that the students of today are being equipped with everything they are going to need to meet the future of work – whatever it looks like.

Some things will change, some things will stay the same

Despite all the focus on digital transformation, there are some jobs on the Top 100 list that are reassuringly familiar. Nestled in among roles such as Gamification Designer and Cyborg Psychologist, are jobs we all recognise from the here and now. Professions like Early Childhood Teacher, Cross-Cultural Facilitator and Aged Health Carer will always be in demand. People will always need people.

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