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The new world of work: are students prepared?

Justine Munro, co-founder of 21C Skills Lab, says that the community of interest being formed by new business and education partnerships will transform high school education in Aotearoa.

The word ‘disruption’ has suffered from acute overuse, so much so that we risk failing to empathise with the crisis that employers face. Disruption means nothing less than the destruction of established business models in the face of new models, leading to vast cohorts of workers with obsolete skills and a shortfall of workers able to fill the new roles. Reskilling workers, and preparing tomorrow’s worker

s, are two of the biggest challenges of our times.

Job ads already ask for digital literacy 212 percent more than they did only three years ago. They ask for critical thinking 158 percent more, and creativity 65 percent more. Demand for fundamental traits like curiosity and tenacity is now overtaking demand for technical skills, which has rapidly become out of date.

Employers are struggling to find workers with the right traits, and reskilling is both difficult and expensive once workers lose the neural plasticity that is such a notable feature of adolescence.

Business/education partnerships

Therefore, forward-thinking businesses are looking at how they can partner with high schools to foster creative, socially intelligent workers of the future. Adolescence is the ideal time to develop the 21st-century (21C) skills of creativity, curiosity, digital fluency, communication, teamwork and global competence that businesses need to thrive.

To ensure that these business/education partnerships achieve meaningful scale, 21C Skills Lab is working with Spark Foundation, Stanford d.school and leading New Zealand educators to roll out an Edternships Programme in 2019. Standout educators and progressive business leaders shadow each other, learn about the new world of work and education practices respectively, and collaborate to create an open-source, transformative learning experience that is fit for the 21st century.

The programme is being co-designed by New Zealand educators, businesses, students and iwi, together with philanthropists and government agencies for a full roll-out in the second half of 2019.

This will involve three phases, described below:

Phase One – Design Institute, led by Stanford d.school (March-April 2019)

After substantial early collaboration, this phase culminates in a Design Day on 12 April 2019. The outcome of the Design Day will be a prototype Edternships Programme that will be tested in Phase Two.

Phase Two – testing (May-June 2019)

During this phase, 21C Skills Lab will test the programme prototype with educator and business champions. Phase Two will culminate in a Feedback Workshop in June, where participants will come together to share experiences and make changes to the prototyped design.

Phase Three – Roll-out (July-October 2019)

In term 3, 21C Skills Lab will run the Edternship Programme with an initial grouping of educators and businesses, ensuring feedback and impact evaluation is captured for constant iteration of the programme.

21C Skills Lab welcomes school leaders, educators and businesses interested in joining the programme as co-designers. They will work alongside some of the country’s smartest teachers and leaders from businesses including Spark, Fonterra, Xero, thl and Air New Zealand, and public sector agencies such as MBIE, ACC and Callaghan Innovation.

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