Future Skills

So in light of the changing world of work, the new ways technology is replacing human labor, and the current pace of change in schools, what are the critical future skills that will give students the best chance of being successful and carving out the future they want?

First let me provide a visual summary, and then I’ll provide more detail and the resources behind it.


Here is a summary and links to some quality sources:

Education-Focused Sources

Most Likely To Succeed (book and film by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith):

  • Creativity/Ideation
  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
  • Complex Communications (written, verbal)
  • Collaboration/Teamwork

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning:

  • 4C’s  – Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration
  • Life/Career Skills
  • Technology/media/information skills
  • Key Subjects – 3 Rs and 21st Century Themes

Creative Schools (book by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica):

  1. Curiosity – the ability to ask questions and explore how the world works
  2. Creativity – the ability to generate new ideas and apply them
  3. Criticism – the ability to analyse info and ideas, and form reasoned arguments and judgements
  4. Communication – the ability to express thoughts and feelings clearly and confidently in a range of media and forms
  5. Collaboration – the ability to work constructively with others

Skills Gap-focused Source:

McKinsey Global Study on Education to Employment (listed in order of importance as reported by employers) Exhibit 15:

  1. Work Ethic
  2. Teamwork
  3. Oral Communications
  4. Hands-on Training in Discipline
  5. Problem Solving
  6. Written Communications
  7. Creativity
  8. Computer Literacy
  9. Theoretical Training in Discipline
  10. Basic Math
  11. Leadership

Innovation Age/Future of Work-focused Sources:

The Second Machine Age Chapter 12 (book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee) pinpoints three areas where humans have an advantage over technology (for now, they caution):

  • Ideation – coming up with new ideas or concepts
  • large-frame pattern recognition (software only recognizes patterns within the programmed frame of reference but humans can find inspiration in one domain and apply it to a completely different situation)
  • complex forms of communication


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