© Øivind Hovland

Are you ready for the future of learning and work? The rapid expansion of technology, and especially artificial intelligence, is altering the job market, resulting in both new opportunities and challenges. It is a chief concern for students thinking about their employment prospects.

The trend towards digitalisation and AI is well under way in many industries, allowing some technical skills to be automated, and leading employers to place a greater emphasis on human-centric skills such as problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, cognitive agility and empathy. The ability to master these skills is becoming crucial to thrive in the job market today, and will be even more important in the future.

However, most education systems prioritise knowledge transfer, memorisation and standardised tests, and fail to cultivate human-centric skills. It is therefore vital for young people to actively seek out opportunities to build them. This requires reflection, cultivating a sense of purpose and taking action to put it into practice.

Employers are recognising the power of purpose to foster commitment and motivation towards shared goals, and to create a high-performance work culture. Purpose-driven employees serve as role models who inspire others and encourage collaboration while prioritising their own wellbeing. They help to create inclusive environments that attract and retain talented employees, and are invested in the success of the organisation.

Tarek Chehidi

By developing a connection to the world around them, and a deeper understanding of the systemic issues that exist within it, students can strengthen skills such as empathy, collaboration and problem solving.

For example, Esther Oluwaremilekun Odekunle, an 18-year-old student taught through the Teach For Nigeria programme and member of Teach For All’s global Student Leader Advisory Council, worked with her peers to develop and implement a digital skills programme for young people, after discovering that only three in every 20 students in her community in Lagos were confident in using technology. Through the initiative, Esther learnt about her community’s needs, found a sense of purpose and practised collaborative skills. Her motivation was not to improve employability, but the skills she developed are exactly those that will set her up to thrive in a changing workplace.

When students have a purpose and pursue opportunities that align with this, they tend to engage in activities that lead to unexpected outcomes, such as becoming more agile and adaptive, or expanding their outlook.

Raquel Jardim, for instance, is another member of Teach For All’s Student Leader Advisory Council. The 18-year-old Brazilian used to believe she was only suited to a career in humanities and had come to assume that she disliked Stem subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, her involvement in a “women in Stem” movement at school exposed Raquel to a new environment and people she would not normally connect with, shifting her perception of her ability to learn maths. She discovered strengths she did not know she had, which opened up new career opportunities.

World of Work: free online event for students

Join us on Monday 27 March at 2pm — 3.30pm BST for a digital event hosted by FT Schools, offering more practical advice on skill building and career planning, and live Q&A. Sessions will be available to watch on-demand as well.

Register your free place here

These are uncertain times, to be sure. Young people may look at the road ahead and worry about the number of today’s jobs which may soon be obsolete. But the rapid pace of change is also creating endless possibilities for careers.

Now, more than ever, it is possible for young people to bridge the gap between purpose and work, and channel their energy towards solving some of the biggest societal challenges, such as inequality, poverty and climate change.

Those about to enter the workplace have the power to shape its future for the benefit of us all. Compared to the old certainties we are leaving behind, this prospect is far more enticing.

The author is head of non-profit organisation Teach For All’s Future of Work initiative

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