Making our students ‘Future Ready’

student in library
Randy Barber

As we peer into the future, it is understandable that many people, especially our high school students, feel some trepidation about what lies ahead. 

“They’re just coming up with new stuff every day… self-driving cars, robots doing work for us,” said Centaurus Junior Catalina Maiocco. “I think it is great – but it is also kind of scary. It is pretty crazy how fast everything has developed lately.” 

As shown in the video The Future of Work: Will Our Children Be Prepared?, technology is revolutionizing entire industries -- creating brand new career pathways, while replacing other jobs with automation. It is hard to know what kinds of careers our students will compete for in 10 years.

“As a parent, it makes me a little bit worried. I think, ‘Am I doing enough? Are we doing enough? Are we preparing enough? Are we going down the right road?’” said Jennifer Korb BVSD’s Director of Instructional Practices, serving the Southwest Network. “As an educator, however, it makes me super excited – because the world is unlimited for our students. Our job is to create students who can participate in an unlimited world and that is really exciting.”

In November, Korb and her colleagues organized the Essential Skills Input Session, bringing a group of BVSD community members, including parents, students and educators, together to discuss what skills our students will need to excel in this ever-changing world. The goal is to ensure that BVSD graduates are “Future Ready.”

Corinne Waldau speaking at event

The keynote address was delivered by Corine Waldau, Boulder Chamber of Commerce’s economic development director, who shared that it is skills, not knowledge, that companies are looking for today and will be needing in the future.

“Most coding companies or most IT companies will tell you that students leaving college with a computer science degree don’t know how to code to the language they want. What they really need to bring in is someone who fits their culture, who will be eager to learn, who wants to continue learning as they grow as a company,” Waldau said. “They can teach them some of those technical skills, but it is really hard to teach customer service, it is really hard to teach showing up on time, and it is really hard to teach communication past a certain age.”

She says 21st Century Skills, including Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity, Collaboration and Resilience are “recession and industry proof.”

“Even if we have an economic downturn, this is kind of something that you still want to invest in– because, in the future, you’re still going to need employees who have these skills,” Waldau said.

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The participants in the input session agreed, while also adding in their perspectives.

“I think that is very important, especially when looking for a job. I don’t think they’re only looking at how smart are you – they’re also looking at how can you work with other people, how can you help other people,” added Maiocco.

“All this stuff is good, but you still need people who can do math, write and synthesize information. You still need people who understand the basics,” said Ed Duell, husband of a BVSD teacher and father of two BVSD graduates. “We don’t need a revolution, I think we need an evolution, a smart evolution.”

While there is always room for improvement, he says it is important to acknowledge that despite the narrative in the U.S. – our educational system works quite well in developing innovative people.

“In China they are fantastic at repeating something and backwards engineering something. In the U.S. we have the magic sauce that tends to work. A lot of the inventions are coming out of the U.S.,” Duell said. “Rote memorization works for other countries, but it is not going to invent the next iPhone or the next whatever technology we will be having in 20 years.”

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Additionally, many participants discussed the need for a variety of career pathways for students, including those that are not interested in pursuing college after high school.

Participants at the event

The feedback gathered will be used to create Essential Skills Guidelines that then feed into BVSD’s All Together For All Students strategic plan.

“It will play an important role as we are restructuring the way we are thinking about teaching and learning in Boulder Valley. We are dedicated to ensuring our children have the skills necessary when they leave us – and that we are being really adaptive and listening to our community about what they want from us and being responsive to their needs as they are the people hiring our children, people parenting our students – those people have a very significant part of our work.”

“I think it is really great they’re doing this and I’m really proud to be a part of it,” Maiocco said.
 


 

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