Your journey has begun. You know that technology is omnipresent and permeates every aspect of our daily lives. You are aware that the education sector faces more pressure than ever before, that the working world faces significant challenges through automation and that drones, robots and driverless cars are becoming commonplace and mainstream. Now, with the arrival of Full Circle Project, you know we need to be doing more to better understand how all of this affects our kids and the world that awaits them.
Here and now a flourishing network of businesses exist, focused on delivering the support to you and the children in your care, in order to adapt to and embrace a 21st Century lifestyle. Those businesses are categorised into areas of future skill development (FSD) and focus on the whole child – the social, emotional, intellectual, physical and entrepreneurial aspects of every child.
Starting with STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Maths)
STEM (and more recent variants thereof) is the “poster boy” for future skills and currently dominates in terms of press attention as well as curriculum integration. Yet the awareness levels amongst educators and parents alike are far too low for any substantial and consistent impetus to have been created. Yet! Firstly, why the STEM fuss?
Several compelling reasons exist, but two stand out amongst our most prominent STEM advocates:
- We are entering a period of significant job loss through forces such as automation and the rise in robotics. STEM fields, on the other hand, are growing – which sounds great. The only problem is that in Australia we are experiencing a distinct lack of competently qualified candidates for high-tech and science-based jobs. So, we do not have enough kids following careers in these fields but of equal importance, the calibre isn’t high enough for Australia to compete globally – in what is becoming a far more globalised economy.
- Then there are our PISA scores…
What is PISA?
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey (the next one is scheduled for 2018) which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. In 2015 over half a million students, representing 28 million 15-year-olds in 72 countries and economies, took the internationally agreed two-hour test. Students were assessed in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem-solving and financial literacy
How did Australia fare in the latest results?
Summarised, Australia is above-average in comparison with all participating countries but has been in decline across Science, Maths and Literacy since 2006. This is not great news for the fastest growing industry locally and worldwide.
We agree that these are two very important reasons supporting why we need, as a society (and especially as parents), to get on board, collaborate and increase the uptake in STEM and quick!
To further explain the lack of appeal or interest in STEM, there have been a few hurdles in the way of its promotion:
- It has a poor brand image. STEM is simply misunderstood.
It is NOT a silo-type sharpened focus on subject matter or theory. STEM has actually moved away from modular teaching and progressed towards interdisciplinary and applied learning approaches. In other words, the subjects are integrated throughout curricula and use “hands-on” methodology to help demonstrate understanding. STEM has actually made learning fun!
The best STEM programs are the ones found in our listings – the ones using current and emerging technology, the ones where you see kids lying on the floor building robots out of Lego, bringing Science to life in relatable, awesome ways, learning to code using awesome apps like Scratch, printing 3D characters that have been designed on an iPad, and bringing creative writing and art to life in the form of stop-animation videos. Listen out for terms like project-based learning, peer-based learning and student-led enquiry when looking for STEM/STEAM providers and in-school programs. This is the future of learning.
(PS. At Full Circle we are massive fans of the Arts in STEM to make STEAM, not least of all to shatter the current image of STEM that it is boring and has a “male-bias”. Read more on that topic here)
- It’s niche. Due to a high-intensity focus on increasing the number of STEM-literate* students in industry, high achievers in Math and Science subjects as well as “better performing” schools have been targeted for delivery of STEM programs or initiatives. No child should be left behind in acquiring necessary skills for the future – and our listings, events, and resources are an inclusive collection, all wanting Australian children to have the same access to fundamental skills and experiences
- It’s for boys.
Nothing will make us feistier than hearing this one! The days of gender inequality are numbered and by the time our kids are entering the working world, hopefully, gone! Why would learning fundamental skills for the future be exclusive to “certain kids” or even just to boys? You may have noticed extensive campaigns to get more women and girls into STEM and we list a number of them. Introducing the Arts into STEM not only makes it accessible to all walks of life, but it calls for that rich and bright creativity and design thinking that girls tend to possess and demonstrate in the Art fields. STEM needs girls.
* STEM includes subjects in the fields of chemistry, computer and information technology science, engineering, geosciences, life sciences, mathematical sciences, physics and astronomy, social sciences (anthropology, economics, psychology and sociology) and STEM education and learning research, generally – not an exhaustive list.
Literacy is commonly understood as a child’s fundamental ability to read and write. We should add to our understanding that being literate relates to having a level of competency or knowledge in a specific area as well. Now we also understand thanks to the PISA scores, the average 15-year-old in Australia’s proficiency with reading and writing has been in decline. When discussing FSD, we are adding other areas to the fundamental skills list. Computer Science (digital literacy), Languages, and Financial Literacy are the new additions.
It’s not conducive that kids (teachers or parents) today think of technology merely in terms of using a device such as a tablet, smartphone or smartboard (i.e. being consumers of technology). It stretches into the domain of having a basic understanding of computer programming and information technology – it’s about comprehending the language of computers and then building on that comprehension to create or develop further. The rate of technological development is now termed as “exponential”, meaning that the rate of growth is more rapid. Kids lacking literacy in this space could be left behind. We see Y5/Y6 students today in social entrepreneurship programs using their digital literacy to solve real-world problems with apps they’ve designed, for example. The time to get your kids understanding the world of computers is now. With so many coding clubs springing up all over Australia, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find one that your kids will enjoy.
Learning a second spoken language in the context of FSD has not been widely discussed to date, but is definitely gaining momentum. The reason it makes our list is due to a progressively globalised economy. Through technology, the world has become smaller, our dealings with foreign countries easier and offshoring teams commonplace. The favoured languages to master include Mandarin, Spanish and English as they’re the most widely spoken, therefore if English is the first, learning one of the others as a second is becoming continuously more popular with primary school age children in Australia. At Full Circle, we’re tagging this as a “one-to-watch” future skill. For those that think we will have the technology that can translate any language to the one suited to the circumstance, yes – highly likely. But this is one of the prime examples of what not to let tech do in the future – replace interpersonal professional communication. In fact, the future is asking for more of this skill.
Financial Literacy is a surprise to most parents we personally talk with about future skills, but with an incredible rise in entrepreneurship and/or employees turning to contract or freelance work continuing, the area where people most struggle is with managing their business money. Getting kids to understand the basics of money management has been introduced through a number of awesome apps such as Spriggy, the pocket money app, and Australia’s biggest banks are jumping on the bandwagon with their own apps supporting their youth bank account offerings. Definitely worth taking a look. Get used to hearing the term “kidpreneneur” too as we see a lot more kids and teenagers turn their bright ideas into revenue generating businesses (read here in this article from Entrepeneur.com). The fact is, considering your child to be their own greatest asset is the new way of thinking, one that has the potential to earn in several ways – a mini-corporation with a financial literacy at the spine, supporting the ideas, implementation and management of its activities.
A number of us can recall that laughable one-hour session in high school where a questionnaire was completed and it dubiously decided on the most likely career for you based on your answers. Thankfully we have made significant progress out of necessity that expands way beyond that infamous set of questions to better support kids in this all-important area.
The World Economic Forum article on The Future of Jobs and Skills states that:
65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist
Based on this, how are we able to marry innate skill, learned ability, academic performance, competencies, passions and ambitions with any certainty to a specific field or role anymore? We’re looking at a future where your child is likely to have more than one source of income (think Multiple Income Streams or passive income). The gig economy has shown us a number of examples of teens and adults making money through interests and hobbies. They are likely to work remotely, yet collaboratively, on projects rather than in one role in one company. Your child may never be called a “commuter” rushing into the CBD at peak hour or enjoying their long-service leave. Parents need to get informed and stay informed, keeping a watchful eye on which jobs are going, which are emerging, understanding how your child with their own unique set of attributes and talents are most likely to be fulfilled as things continue to shift.
The future is calling for children to heighten their sense of self with the same awareness of their ever-changing environment. It calls for deeper exploration and understanding that, in the future, jobs can fit the person and not vice versa. It means letting go of traditional views and opening up to the possibilities that exist in reaching uniquely defined personal success. And great career development providers will support that understanding.
(Source: 1 McLeod, Scott and Karl Fisch, “Shift Happens”)
Social, Emotional & Physical Wellbeing
With the pervasiveness of social media and dependency on devices, we’ve seen a corresponding rise in mental health issues including anxiety, depression, self-harm, personal and physical disconnection and reduction in physical activity in kids and teenagers. Friendships, social interactions, bullying – offline or online – are hot topics for most parents and in fact, a greater concern than any other future skill we’ve listed. Warranted when you look at the statistics.
Concurrently, within the modern workplace, we observe an increased demand for graduates who demonstrate “soft” (life/enterprise) skills such as creative problem-solving, demonstrating a global mindset, optimism, resilience, adaptability/flexibility, collaboration, empathy, leadership skills, confidence, self-awareness, eloquence, and emotional intelligence to name an important few. This is because we need to be more agile, to create, to pre-empt and to handle change and guide others through it.
We do have a duty to shore up our economy, to focus on the industries of the future, but we should give equal and careful consideration to building the communities of the future too. We want our kids living authentic, skilled and fulfilled lives. Social entrepreneurship and working with purpose is (thankfully!) a growing trend. Getting kids to connect more with themselves, increasing their self-awareness and understanding and how they can better impact the world around them – not so that one day it could lead to profit, but so that their life has more meaning – is why social & emotional intelligence is a future skill and physical health remains ever important to overall wellness.
Being or becoming an entrepreneur is ‘de jour’ – everyone seems to be one or is trying to. In the context of FSD, we go back to the very essence of entrepreneurship and champion the qualities that successful entrepreneurs have. Yes, more people will turn to consultancy, freelance or contract work because of displacement through job loss. Yes, if you have a great idea you should pursue any opportunity that allows you to turn it into a viable business. But do you have the competency to sustain yourself as a business owner? Motivated, risk-averse, creative (an ‘out-the-box’ thinker), self-confident, disciplined, flexible, financially literate, able to lead and network (strong communication/interpersonal skills)? We’ve already defined some of the “soft” skills kids should bring to the fore in readiness for the future and now we see that a great number of those skills are demonstrated in entrepreneurship.
Most of the programs being delivered to kids and teens via competitions, courses or incursions fall into the social entrepreneurship category – again, this is working to achieve an outcome for social improvement. Profit for purpose. Entrepreneurship programs help develop the mindset and offer tools for kids to go after their dreams and create a better world, and now they now have a parent who knows where to go to find the right one!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Feel free to comment or share.
Ed’s Note: It’s critically important not to “push” kids into one job or career path that looks likely to survive the wave of transformation for reasons of security. We encourage staying informed on newly created jobs and for opportunities that will emerge and be as secure. The greatest positive to emerge from a period of change is the discovery of new, fresh opportunities. The strongest message that we’re getting about the future is that your child is likely to live a more genuine life, with more purpose and more freedom than in the past of their parents. That is liberating!