What Should We Be Advising Our Kids To Study To Future Proof Their Careers?

19/10/2016 12:28
Caiaimage/Sam Edwards via Getty Images

My three amazing daughters demand my attention the minute I walk through the door. They will frequently wrestle my phone out my hand, even if I haven't finished my call, email or tweet that I was working on. In fact, one of their favourite games to play is 'hide Daddy's phone', which always reminds me of the importance of spending quality time with them at home.

That said, my girls - aged nine, six and two - are growing up in a very different world to the one I did. Born digitally-native, it's not uncommon to see my youngest daughter attempting to 'swipe' the TV screen in the playroom or the eldest two battling to get their hands on the iPad. But, as we look to the future, I'm starting to think about what skills they'll need beyond this basic technical know-how to prepare them for jobs that might not even exist yet.

In the digital era, change is happening at such a fast pace that there is an ever widening gap between what is being taught in education and the skills required for the working environment. We all know that there is a high demand for IT skills - particularly in cloud, big data, mobile, web development and IT security, and individuals with experience in these areas are commanding high salaries. Getting a basic grounding in these types of skills as well as softer ones like problem-solving, decision-making and dealing with people will put children in good stead for the future. But, how can I get my girls interested in taking the subjects that will best prepare them for their careers?

As a first port of call, I have been seeking out the ICT heads at the senior schools we're considering for my eldest, quizzing them on what they're teaching now and, more importantly, what they're planning to teach next term.

More than ever before, teachers are seeking the advice of their students to decipher what interests them, as well as the emerging technologies they need to be aware of and rolling out in classrooms. Even in junior schools, it's now just as common to see the principles of coding being taught as it is mental arithmetic, with development being taught through the use of games and HTML web design. And, with cyber threats at an all-time high, it's reassuring to see that safety aspects are usually at the top of the agenda for many ICT heads in schools, with basic IT security knowledge being added to the curriculum.

Of course, with technology evolving at such a pace, we can't be 100% sure what roles our children and children's children will be applying for in the future. What we can be sure of however, is that we need to encourage them to not only be digitally-savvy, but more importantly, digitally-interested.

To succeed in the future, it will be less about the specific skills they have on their CVs - just because they didn't choose to read maths or computer science at university doesn't mean they won't be able to become data scientists, for instance - and more about fostering the curiosity and ability for life-long learning. Employers are always on the lookout for individuals with the aptitude and enthusiasm to continuously upskill, and this is why I'm teaching my daughters to be inquisitive about everything in their early years.

Of course, all this being said, my wife and I like to keep screen time to a minimum, and ensure a healthy balance of digital games and physical activities in the great outdoors; if only we could put our own devices down for longer than 10 minutes!