The future world of work & careers: dynamics, skills & partnerships
21st Century Skills, Behaviours & Dispositions
Traditional disciplinary knowledge and skills will remain essential into the future, but additional ‘21st century’ skills, behaviours and dispositions will also be so. It is not ‘either or’. Indeed, the acquisition of capabilities such as collaboration and problem solving is done most effectively ‘in the context of mastering specific disciplinary, trade or professional expertise’.
The Centre for International Research on Education Systems has identified nine key competencies that ‘primarily link to academic achievement and are seen as important for students to learn for promoting
success in their future lives’. They are: critical thinking; creativity; metacognition; problem solving; collaboration and cooperation; motivation; selfefficacy and a sense of agency; conscientiousness;
and grit, perseverance and tenacity.
A study by the World Economic Forum identifies sixteen ‘21st century’ skills and capabilities, which it allocates to three broad categories. These are foundational literacies (literacy; numeracy; ICT
literacy; financial literacy; and cultural and civic literacy); competencies (critical thinking and problem solving; creativity; communication; and collaboration); and character qualities (curiosity;
initiative; persistence and grit; adaptability; leadership; and social and cultural awareness).
A wide range of ‘21st century’ skills and competencies are identified by the FYA, organised into organisational skills; digital literacy skills; creative problem solving skills; interaction skills; and other skills (including foreign language skills, initiative and detail-mindedness).
A key challenge for educators will be to ensure that young people ‘not only acquire foundational and technical skills, but that they are able to deploy those skills in an increasingly enterprising way—as active problem solvers and communicators of ideas, equipped with a more entrepreneurial mindset and appetite for ongoing learning.’
A series of interviews by the NSW Association of Independent Schools in 2018 with fifteen senior business and other organisation leaders identified commonality in the skills and characteristics sought from young people for graduate roles. They included the ability to work collaboratively in ‘multidisciplinary, high-functioning teams’; ‘resilience, understanding and interpersonal skills’;
the ability to deal with failure; an entrepreneurial mindset; strong disciplinary knowledge and domain expertise; ‘real-world learning experience’; and a global perspective.
Interviews conducted in preparation of this report, with executives in the banking, legal and engineering/design sectors, also identified many ‘21st century’ skills and capabilities that were broadly consistent with those cited above.
A recent survey of over 3,000 business leaders in North America and Western Europe by McKinsey identifies fifteen skills and capabilities where demand is expected to increase. They include communication and negotiation skills; technology design skills; advanced IT skills; project management; creativity; critical thinking and decision making; advanced literacy and writing skills; interpersonal and empathy; and adaptability
and continuous learning.
There is agreement that students should be technologically ‘literate’ by the time they leave school, but some uncertainty about what this means. Professional services firm Deloitte, in partnership with Geelong Grammar School, asserts that for students to be ‘digitally competent’ they must be at least familiar with coding and ‘[e]merging technologies such as functional programming and … machine learning’. Linking digital skills with problem solving skills, they advocate ensuring that students have ‘the practical skills to … solve problems in context, bringing the digital technology to the problem (where appropriate) rather than the
problem to digital technology.’
It is estimated that in coming years, over 90 percent of Australia’s workforce will require sufficient skills to use technology to communicate, find information and transact; and nearly 50 percent will need the
ability to configure and use digital systems. However, having the expertise to build digital technology will remain a relatively niche specialisation.