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Time to play: Creativity is key to prepare children for careers in the digital era (Pexels)

Encouraging creativity and play is essential to foster the entrepreneurial spirit required in tomorrow’s workforce

The enforced closure of schools during the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a mass – and mostly new – appreciation for the work of teachers. Naturally, parents desire the best for their children, but how to prepare our little ones for the working world in, say, 10 years, given the gallop of technology? And, while on lockdown, is five hours’ screentime a day beneficial to the development of a six-year-old child, or not?

By 2030 a fifth of the global workforce – 800 million human workers – will have been displaced thanks to machines and automation, according to an oft-referenced McKinsey Global Institute report, published in 2017. While it is likely that new jobs will be created between now and then – and the prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) will mean mundane tasks will be replaced by elements of work that are more enjoyable, creative and satisfying – it’s clear: careers and career paths will be markedly different to what we are used to today.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018 estimated that by 2022 “no less than 54 per cent of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling”. The study states: “‘Human’ skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion, and negotiation will … retain or increase their value [from today], as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving.”

But what about in 2032, or 2042, and beyond? What are the tools we should be arming the youngsters of 2020 with so they stand a chance of surviving the world of work in one or two decades from now? 

“Many pedagogical experts argue that schools should switch to teaching ‘the four Cs’ – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity,” writes Yuval Noah Harari in his 2018 book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

In a chapter titled “Education: Change is the only constant”, Prof Harari continues: “More broadly, schools should downplay technical skills and emphasise general-purpose life skills. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations.”


Hazel Kay, Global Head of Admissions and Marketing at ACS International Schools – a group of four independent schools, three in England and one in Qatar – certainly agrees, and believes, in particular, “creativity is an essential skill for a successful career”. She advocates that “entrepreneurial spirit” should be encouraged, and points to a recent report from ACS International Schools and the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE) that surveyed Heads of Enterprise (HoE) at 62 universities across the UK. “Almost half (47 per cent) of HoE said that budget cuts to arts education provisions would harm the entrepreneurial spirit of students,” he says.

“The report also states that 65 per cent of HoE believe that the narrowing of subjects harms a student’s entrepreneurial spirit. Students need to be able to look beyond the facts learnt in maths, history and biology, for example, and take away analytical skills.” 

Andrew Kim, Manager in Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures group, concurs. “When visiting primary and secondary schools and universities around the country, I see educators using active learning as a way to teach newly-prized 21st-century skills,” he tells MillGens. “The ‘4 Cs’ are being added to the ‘3 Rs’: reading, writing and arithmetic. Now, with a focus on the future of education, we are asking: what’s next? If the ‘4 Cs’ are the focus for today’s learners, what skills will students of the future need to develop?” 

Through research, observations and conversations, Mr Kim has determined the three skills that may prepare future learners for a highly unpredictable, hyper-competitive world. These are “self-agency”, “paradigm-shifting”, and “human-to-computer collaboration”.


First, he explains the requirement for self-agency: “Organisations will need to be more agile and adaptable. We can expect to see the continued shift from command-and-control to self-learning with flatter structures and more distributed decision-making. In these new models, employees will need to be skilled in self-directed learning and have an increased sense of self-agency. With the rise of maker spaces in schools, our education system is starting to create learning experiences that help students shift their mindset from being consumers of knowledge to being creators.”

Andrew Kim Steelcase

Future-focused: Andrew Kim of Steelcase

On paradigm-shifting, Mr Kim says: “While the average human lifespan continues to increase, we see the reverse trend with the average lifespan of public companies. Boston Consulting Group’s analysis comparing human lifespans and the lifespans of public companies showed that while human life spans have nearly increased by 50 per cent between 1950 and 2010, corporate life spans have decreased by half. In an intense, ever-changing marketplace, companies must be prepared to innovate their business models.”

On this theme, he continues: “Companies can no longer compete solely on incremental innovation – disruptive innovations are changing how companies compete with one another. Organisations will need employees who can imagine complete paradigm shifts. Creative thinking within a giving context may no longer be enough. Employees will need to harness their mind and think of new possibilities for their industries.”

Finally, Mr Kim reckons that man and machine should work together, hand in glove, rather than the latter supplanting the former. He promotes IT skills for those seeking to make headway in the digital era. “As technology hardware and artificial intelligence continues to improve at high speed, the nature of collaboration will change,” he suggests. “We’ll not only need to learn how to collaborate well with others, but we’ll need to learn how to collaborate with machines. 

“In freestyle chess tournaments, humans can collaborate with other humans and computers in any combination. The surprise winner of the ‘no-rules’ freestyle tournament wasn’t the grandmaster chess player collaborating with a computer. Rather, it was a team of amateur players working with a team of off-the-shelf computers. The lesson being that the process of collaboration – when we choose to interact with other humans and how we choose to interact with computers – is vital.”

Evidently, in the future workers will have to be prepared for roles to change radically throughout their careers. The days of a job for life are gone in the digital era. As such, a single programme of education and training is no longer enough. Hence, it is critical to equip young people with foundational skills that will stand them in good stead, regardless of what jobs they end up taking on. 

Teachers – and parents – it’s over to you.