What automation means for schools

What automation means for schools

In 2017, a Foundation of Young Australians (FYA) report analysed over 20 billion hours of work completed by 12 million Australian workers across 400 occupations each year to predict the skills and capabilities that will matter most in 2030.

The report found that automation is going to change what employees do in almost every occupation.

FYA CEO, Jan Owen, said the report highlights the transformational changes affecting the way Australians work and live.

“Technological advancement and global trends are changing the nature of work, the structure of economies, and the types of skills needed by labour forces across the world,” Owen said.

“The average transition time from education to work is now 4.7 years compared to 1 year in 1986.”

So how can schools respond to these challenges?

According to Skilling Australia Foundation (SAF) CEO, Nick Wyman, schools should help students find pathways into vocational study, and that principals and career advisers should reconsider the type of advice they are giving to students.

“We hope that principals make a greater effort to understand the employment prospects which can be accessed through vocational pathways and VET study,” Wyman told The Educator.

“The reality is, not all of us are academically inclined, but this emphasis on ATAR’s and the ‘university or bust’ mentality is causing a lot of undue stress on young people.”

However, Professor John Buchanan, head of business analytics at the University of Sydney Business School, and the Sydney Policy Lab, says students need to develop more than just ‘soft’ or ‘general employability’ skills.

“If we want young people to thrive as citizens and not just be highly flexible labour, they need nurturing in many aspects of life and development, not just those related to employability,” Professor Buchanan said in the report.

“Students need to develop fundamental dispositions for learning and adaptability in the broadest sense, such as concentration, resilience, curiosity.”

Buchanan says that in an AI-rich world, students will need to understand how algorithms and AI-based technology works, how it can impact on their world and the importance of ethical design.

One important factor in achieving this, says Buchanan, is understanding that 21st century skills are best acquired through domain-specific knowledge.

“Once the early learning foundations have been built, the mastery of these ‘soft’ skills are best developed in the context of deep domain specific knowledge and specialist expertise,” he said.

“Skills and expertise in problem-solving, critical thinking and communication may also be subject and job-specific, and not necessarily transferrable.”

For Konica Minolta’s account manager for education, Tony Robertson, 3D printing plays a significant role in preparing students for an automated workforce.

Robertson says 3D printing skills are likely to be required in many emerging industries, such as medical science, defence and engineering.

“We’ve really got to demonstrate those thinking skills and get kids to think critically and creatively around the designs or engineering projects,” Robertson told The Educator.

“If they can actually learn those lifelong lessons, I think they’ll go really well towards getting a career somewhere.”

One of the greatest benefits of 3D printing, says Robinson, is that it can be utilised across almost any subject area.

“It’s up to the teachers as to how they do that, but with engineering, the design syllabus, prototyping, designing and critical analysis are key learning areas for students to utilise 3D printing,” he said.

“There’s also a push from the STEM side of it from certain sectors in the education system, so you really want to bring that theory and that understanding to a tangible and hands on reality for students. They can get this through 3D printing.”