Educating Kids for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet

Once children responded to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up? ” with answers such as “A teacher, doctor, firefighter, miner or astronaut”. In 2015, if children answer this question by saying ‘I don’t know’, they’re probably spot on. Chances are, their jobs haven’t been created yet.

According to a recent report from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, most of the jobs that will be created in Australia in the next 20 years will be in companies that don’t exist today.

The Committee’s report focused on the future of Australia's workforce and also examined the high probability that 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce could be replaced by automation within the next ten to 20 years.

While technology and innovation are transforming our economy, PwC Chief Executive, Luke Sayers, says they are also the solution to our workforce and growth challenge. This year, PwC released a report on the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and found that 75 per cent of the fast-growing occupations require STEM skills. Similarly, its finding shows that changing just one per cent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to GDP.

Motivated by this and the desire to ensure her students will be equipped with the skills needed for this workforce, St Patrick’s, Lochinvar, teacher, Stephanie Colvin, decided to do something about it. With the support of her principal, Stephanie wrote and implemented a program to give selected students in Years 4, 5 and 6 the opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding of key STEM skills. She said the program, “Ready Steady Code”, “aims to develop technological skills in computer programming and coding with a focus on developing problem solving, reasoning, critical thinking, imagination, creativity and digital literacy skills”.

Stephanie took the knowledge she had learned from working in London, where computer curriculum programs are enforced, and now uses a free software program called Scratch to allow students to program their own interactive stories, games and animations.

Stephanie says it’s about getting students to think about solving problems, to ask critical questions like, “If I want this to happen, how will I make it happen?” and to work through the process. The PwC report confirmed that “Critical thinking and problem solving, analytic capabilities, curiosity and imagination have all been identified as critical ‘survival skills’ in the workplace of the future.”3 The “Ready Steady Code” program allows students to learn these skills in age-appropriate ways that are positive, stimulating and fun.

Year 4 student, Baiden Harrod, said he was “happy and interested” to learn about the program and said “it was really cool. I have learned a lot including how to make a maze, a math quiz and how two different ‘sprites’ (characters) talk to one another.”

Layne Wilks, also in Year 4, said she was excited to be selected and she’s looking forward to other children “having the opportunity to use the maths quiz” she’s developing once finished. In September, Baiden’s and Layne’s families, amongst others, had the opportunity to view the projects that the students had been working on at a special ‘show and tell’ session hosted by the school.

Stephanie said the session was an opportunity for the students to showcase their work and hopefully excite even more interest. At the rate students are not only picking up, but embracing, these technological skills, Miss Colvin could very well be educating the future CEO of a company that doesn’t even exist yet.

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Emma Blackford

Emma Blackford worked for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle from 2009-2017. During this time, Emma held the positions of Communications Manager for the Catholic Schools Office, Communications Manager for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and Marketing and Communications Manager for CatholicCare Hunter-Manning.

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