Skills for life: The top five skills that teens need for future success

Preparing kids for university

How equipped is your child for university and beyond? Barbara Cooper outlines the top five skills modern teens need for future success.

It’s not always easy saying goodbye to our children as they venture off to university. We ask ourselves whether they have the right skills to adapt to their new lives. Our home suddenly becomes quieter and the fridge fuller. We wonder if we have prepared them for independent living and future employability. 

Living in Discovery Bay has fantastic advantages for teens. My son was educated here and acquired an international set of friends, excellent schooling, travel opportunities and exposure to different cultures. Before university, I taught him to cook simple meals, use a washing machine, budget his monthly allowance (just!) and travel independently. More broadly though, I wondered whether his education had prepared him for life ahead. It wasn’t just future employment skills he needed but also knowledge about which emerging opportunities to take. 

Beyond the classroom 

New technologies are connecting us globally. Trends show it’s becoming normal to live until 100 years old and that the number of UK workforce employees overage 65 will practically double by 2022. One reason for this is that  the traditional concept of retirement has changed. Many 70-year-olds today are as mentally and physically fit as 50-year-olds were a generation ago. Our children are likely to enjoy longer life spans, very different work opportunities and more career changes.

The world we live in is increasingly volatile, uncertain and ambiguous. The World Economic Forum predicts that over a third of the skills that are considered important in today’s job market will be obsolete by 2020.  Advanced robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and biotechnology are increasingly likely to be the norm. 

With this increase of new products, technologies and ways of working, university students will need different skills for the job market. Traditional ‘hard’ skills, like writing, mathematics and science, continue to have a place in the worlds of academia and of work, but employers are also on the lookout for people with so-called ‘soft’skills. Soft skills include the abilityto adapt to changing circumstances and the willingness to learn through experience, and are applicable across multiple disciplines and careers.

 

Sought-after employment skills 

The top five employment skills identified by The World Economic Forum as being most in demand by 2020 are complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and coordinating with others. The top three skills are considered absolutely essential for all teenagers to cultivate.

Companies use data to help predict  future trends and make informed decisions in all areas of production, automation and finance. The use of personal data worldwide is nearly doubling annually. Facebook now uploads 350 million photos daily. The UK’s Gig economy has exploded. Uber alone now has 40,000 UK workers. 

Some industries will grow, other jobs will disappear and some that aren’t yet invented will be near  commonplace in a decade. Many firms now place higher value on complex decision-making skills. 

Developing critical thinking and creative-thought tools to make choices means teens will be able to solve difficult problems. Some schools are developing these skills, but with the dizzying speed of technological change, there is a need for more active parental support at home. 

Mobile, internet and cloud technology occupy large segments of our everyday lives. Most teens are technologically savvy, but they must learn to hone their own creative imaginations and critical thinking skills. Their world’s pace of changeis fast and it won’t wait for them. 

3 ESSENTIAL SOFT SKILLS

1. To improve problem solving abilities, encourage children to generate ideas for various events: a holiday, shopping for new trainers, a revision schedule or applying to university. Draw up a table displaying the information gained, costs and benefits to help with decision making. Then map out a plan with a time scale. 

2. To improve critical thinking skills, ask children to define the way they see things. Help them internalise cognitive standards such as clarity, precision, relevance, depth, breadth and logic. Focus their thinking and conversation each week on a specific area, ie clarity one week, followed next by precision. Relate conversations to world news, global issues and homework.

3. To improve creativity, encourage new ideas, and brainstorm all ideas. Don’t limit a child’s potential. Discuss holiday destinations, birthday events, and outdoor, weekend and community activities. Inspire and praise creative thinking. Encourage children in an art,  dance, photography, or sporty activity. Discuss the skills learnt, what they enjoyed and why. 


Barbara Cooper MBA, BA (Hons). Cert. Ed. offers personalised education mentoring services for DB students, aged 10 to 18. You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 9754 2244.


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