Education stakeholders are quick to champion students’ need for “21st century skills”—but what do employers say they want students to learn? And, how should schools adapt as a result?
Shifting workplace structures have led many companies to covet a new kind of employee, said Ken Kay, CEO of EdLeader21.
In the 1950s through the 1970s, workplaces were more authoritarian, and employees were taught loyalty and obeyed management’s direction. But as workplaces have changed and “flattened,” eliminating several management positions, employers are seeking workers who are self-directed, able to solve problems, and can manage their time and productivity, Kay said.
“This issue of self-direction is absolutely essential,” he said. “The culture of education today is such that … only the most cutting-edge learning environments are really teaching and allowing kids to be self-directed. That’s a real misfire today.”
Jobs of the 21st century are fundamentally self-directed, and education—pedagogy in particular—must change in response to that, Kay said, adding: “We are going to need an educational system that encourages self-direction.”
Many high school and higher-education instructors focus on their role as content experts, but Kay said that “institutions have to be sensitive to their customers, and they need to be sensitive to employers. They need effective, entrepreneurial people.”
Some institutions are breaking the mold by forming industry partnerships that create a combination of content education and internships, he noted.