Education Letter to the Editor

What Future Employers Want

February 13, 2018 1 min read
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To The Editor:

I agree with Tom Vander Ark that to improve job readiness, states, districts, and schools need to start talking now about what graduates need to know and be able to do (“Getting Ready for the Jobs of the Future,” Jan. 24, 2018).

Our team at the Education Development Center has learned a great deal about this preparation thanks to recent interviews we conducted with thought leaders from high-tech and defense industries. In a newly published white paper, we found particular worker attributes that will be highly valued: curiosity, self-direction, resiliency, cooperation, and social competence. They should be able to lead dynamic, cross-disciplinary teams to consensus. They will need to think outside the box, be disruptive and innovative, and risk failure. Their work will be characterized by insight, interpretation, diligence, and persistence.

The National Science Foundation describes the high-tech future workplace as “the human-technology frontier.” But many people are already working in those high-tech environments. How do they describe it—and what does it take to thrive there? Our interviews yielded answers there, too. Workers engaged in these high-tech workplaces told us that work at the human-technology frontier is characterized by a focus on interdisciplinary teams, data, artificial intelligence with blurred boundaries between humans and machines, cybersecurity, problem-based learning, continuous lifelong learning, and ethical considerations that promote innovation and productivity while also ensuring the well-being of individuals and societies.

Let’s ramp up the conversations about the future of work and begin the job of transforming our education system to adapt to a world that has not only changed but completely transformed.

Joyce Malyn-Smith

Principal Investigator

Education Development Center

Waltham, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2018 edition of Education Week as What Future Employers Want


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