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The Educator's Role in Preparing Students for Jobs That Don't Exist Yet

Griffin Jaeger
September 4, 2020

One of the greatest pleasures of being a teacher is the ability to set your students up for success and watch them succeed as they grow and develop. But let’s face it. Education is going through changes. As time passes, new technologies become available, new jobs become available, and what’s expected of those entering the workforce goes through a significant change.

Royal Bank of Canada recently conducted a study across Canada to take a more in-depth look into what they call “future skills” and the future of the labor industry. Within the study, they note that too many students “have been trained for jobs that may go away rather than be equipped for skills that will be even more valuable.”

Teachers are moving further away from lecturing their students to remember, taking a more constructivist approach by introducing the use of 21st-century skills through experiential and collaborative learning.

Read: How to Implement project-based learning with digital portfolios

Preparing Students Through Competency Development

21st-century skills include a range of competencies that can be used in a wide range of scenarios and are believed to help students thrive in the present and future. Skills like communication, collaboration, creative thinking, critical thinking, technology/media literacy, solution fluency, and adaptability, all of which will help prepare today’s students for tomorrow's workforce, paving the way for success.

RBC reports that over 25% of jobs will be “heavily disrupted by technology in the coming decade. Fully half will go through a significant overhaul of the skills required.” With the rapid growth of the internet, information becomes abundantly available, allowing students to “google” any content they may need. Our role as teachers will change in the way we present and have our students interact with the content.

Royal Bank of Canada calls the growing situation a “quiet crisis.” Students are not graduating with the transferable skills necessary to be successful within the career paths that are to come over the next few years.

“We live in a fast-changing world, and producing more of the same knowledge and skills will not suffice to address the challenges of the future. A generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last their students a lifetime. Today, because of rapid economic and social change, schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don’t yet know will arise.”

OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)

While the world continues to change and adapt, our education system should reflect this. As OECD notes, teachers teach “routine cognitive skills” because they are easy to test. But these skills also happen to be the skills that are being increasingly automated and digitized in the workforce.

“The employees of the future need to have the ability to not only find the answer, but to think critically to discover the problem, ask the right questions and apply their learning and knowledge—and get things wrong—in order to find solutions,“ wrote columnist Alison Griffin in Forbes.

The workers of tomorrow need to be equipped with the skills to continually grow, learn, and adapt. Students must be able to take a 21st-century skill and apply it to a wide variety of scenarios. And while doing so, they must be confident in making connections, gaining new skills, and adapting to new roles.

Listen: Competencies without a Classroom

How can you teach these skills, you ask?

By placing more emphasis on formative assessment through digital portfolios.

Let’s dive a little deeper into what that means.

Teaching 21st-century skills within digital portfolios

The goal of a portfolio is to make learning more visible, to show evidence of student learning in the classroom. With that, one of the most important aspects is the student reflection, where students develop insight and, on their own terms, evaluate their learning based on specified goals and success criteria.

When building a portfolio, students are actively involved in collecting evidence of knowledge and as well as their learning process, provides them with the opportunity to develop 21st-century skills, while staying within their curricular standards.

Read: Telling the whole story with digital portfolios


In almost any job your students may encounter (whether it currently exists or not), they will be working with others. The better they are at communicating at a young age, the better they will be at working in any team-based setting. By having students document their learning in a digital portfolio, they are able to continually improve their communication skills. Since digital portfolios allow students to express themselves in a variety of ways, students are able to develop both their written and verbal communication skills.

Additionally, by encouraging students to work in groups as much as possible, not only will they become more effective communicators and develop collaboration skills, but they will also become more self-aware. Being self-aware also contributes to one's ability to communicate their strengths and weaknesses in the workplace.

See relevant SpacesEDU Lesson Plans:

Metacognition & Critical Thinking

Self-reflection is a vital component of a digital portfolio. By making simple, yet effective posts outlining what a student feels they have done well, and what they could work on, they are developing a heightened sense of self that will take them far in the workforce.

See relevant SpacesEDU Lesson Plans:

In The Future of Jobs Report 2020, the World Economic Forum found that critical thinking and analysis, active learning and learning strategies, and problem-solving will be among the top in-demand skills as of 2025. By having students critically think about the items they want to add to their portfolio and reflect on their learning and the processes involved, they will actively work towards developing these in-demand skills.

Read: How to use digital portfolios to promote metacognition in the classroom

Technological/Media Literacy

The more a student interacts with their digital portfolio, the more they become comfortable using devices like computers and tablets. Additionally, they will become more familiar with using various digital tools as they use them to document their learning.

Noted by RBC, “Digital fluency will be essential to all new jobs. This does not mean we need a nation of coders, but a nation that is digitally literate.”

Solution Fluency

Being able to recognize a problem and efficiently develop a revision plan/solution is a skill that is highly valued in today’s workforce. Provide your students with frequent problem-solving activities in their portfolio. Ask them to solve, show their process, and recognize where they went wrong. In doing so, they are working on what Prodigy defines as the six steps to solution fluency: Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Debrief.

See relevant SpacesEDU Lesson Plans:

Each presents a crucial component of working on one's problem-solving skills. They'll be developing creative solutions that change the world in no time.

And that’s only the beginning.

So, what do you say? Let's start setting our students up for success in the classroom so that they can thrive in the workplace.

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