Jobs of The Future – What Career Paths Should Students Prepare For?


Written by John Maguire,

Executive Headmaster, The British School of Bahrain

What will the future hold, and what will my role be in it? These two are questions asked by most students as they choose their post-16 qualifications and often progress on to undergraduate study or apprenticeships. There have been a plethora of books published about the future of professions. One such book, ‘The Future of the Professions: How Technology will transform the work of Human Experts‘, by Daniel and Richard Susskind, was first published over seven years ago in 2015. At the time, it raised many questions about how students are best prepared for the future, and the role schools have in this preparation. Yet here we are in 2022, asking how schools have transformed themselves over the last years to prepare future generations for this predicted transformation in employment.

The challenge that all schools face worldwide is that preparing students for the future of work must be balanced with the demands of the forms of assessment employed by awarding bodies, irrespective of the country or qualification in which they are studied. Sadly, this latter element is what is holding back the transformation of education throughout the world. All schools in the Middle East are subjected to the restrictions imposed on them by the assessment systems employed by their chosen awarding body, whether GCSE, A Level, IB, BTEC or any other of the multitude of qualifications offered within international schools. The fact remains that students during this summer’s examination season will most likely sit examinations in the same way that their parents and even their grandparents sat examinations; at a desk, with a pen, for an intense period of time, and based on testing memory. Is this really the right environment to prepare students for their career paths?

A survey in 2018 of employers across Europe stated that the skills they were looking for in candidates at interviews included flexibility, problem-solving, the ability to analyse information from appropriate sources, the ability to write accurately, the ability to word process, the ability to present and communicate orally, and substantial technological literacy. However, most countries’ assessment systems and curricula do not align with these demanded skills. Educational assessments are typically based on the testing of knowledge, assessed over a short timeframe, with a heavy reliance on a student’s ability to recall information. For many systems, these assessments are also done by hand, and while more advance awarding bodies are experimenting with online assessments, very few are addressing the other shortfalls of their examination systems. While this disparity exists between what employers are looking for in a candidate and what our assessment systems test, there will remain conflict between schools, universities and career preparation.

While the reformation of assessments is a longer-term hope, outstanding schools are already taking steps to prepare their students for their next steps into university and careers. Research into this future of careers indicates that 20% of students who graduate now from our schools will go into a career that does not currently even exist. Furthermore, modern generations are also much more likely to move between professions during their career, and the idea of choosing a singular career path for life is now obsolete. So how do schools prepare their students for such challenges? The answer lies in transferable skills.

There is always commonality in skills demanded by all professions; we call these Transferrable Skills. These skills need to be nurtured in students within an outstanding school. For many schools, this takes two forms. Firstly, the development of skills within lessons and curriculum. A school should have mapped out the progression and accumulation of different skills by students of different ages; once this is established, curriculum maps can identify opportunities where skills are nurtured in all students alongside the development of knowledge and understanding. Secondly, a differentiator within many schools is the quality of their supra-curricular provisions; the activities, societies, clubs, and lectures put on outside of class time. The development of students should not be confined to the classroom, and extra-curricular activities and specific programmes to support the development of individuals should be available for all students.

At the British School of Bahrain (BSB), we have an ever-developing multi-faceted enrichment programme called Beyond BSB, which aims to develop the skills and interests of all students within the Senior School so that they are successful when they enter their chosen university and careers. The success of this programme lies in its flexibility and developmental ethos, so it is constantly changing. Recently, BSB Upper 6th students taught Infant School students First Aid techniques, which they practised on their Teddy Bears. While potentially life-saving for the younger students, experiences like these also develop the communication skills and confidence in older students, attributes sought after by all employers. Of course, this is made possible by all BSB students being taught on one campus, something that not all schools can offer. BSB students become global citizens and leaders in their chosen fields, able to make a positive impact and change the world.

Skills accompanied by character-forming values are crucial to future success in every career path. Subject knowledge, even in courses that are highly practical, will become obsolete in the future. At the British School of Bahrain, we are renowned for our computing education, and our students have gained the best academic results in the country for several years. However, knowledge of coding, while relevant now, might quickly be replaced by a new coding language. Will script like Python, C++, or Java be used in 20 years? The answer is very unlikely; however, the systematic thinking needed to write concise and effective code will still be crucial. The language may change, but the underlying skills will remain the same. For this reason, schools should place equal emphasis on skill development as they do on the accumulation of knowledge.

With time, and influence, awarding bodies will hopefully reassess how and what they examine and, in doing so, align themselves with the demands of employers worldwide. In the meantime, schools must nurture a skills-based curriculum model while also developing the characters of all students. Through these, they will be successful in their chosen careers and professions; even as is likely, these careers will evolve and change over the next half-century.

This article was contributed by John Maguire,

Executive Headmaster, The British School of Bahrain

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