This week we have turned our attention in the Senior School to careers and our pupils’ future. The older pupils in the school stand on the threshold of myriad exciting and challenging opportunities and have, if they follow their dreams, a much more varied and interesting career path ahead of them than most of us, their parents, might have.
When I entered teaching in the early 1990s there were many ‘old timers’ in the common room. I worked in a traditional old fashioned (but very lovely) boarding school where the majority of staff spent their entire careers. They loved the rural lifestyle, they brought their children up there and they never thought to look anywhere else. Many of them secured promotions within the school and their life was focused around small rural community that we lived in. In fact, when I left in 1996 the director of studies was also leaving – retiring in his early 60s. He had been at the school continuously since the age of 8 (yes, 8 years old as a prep school boy) – bar three years at university and a year in industry.
The idea of working in the same industry, let alone the same institution, all of our working life, is alien to us now – if we want to get on in teaching (which is still quite traditional in terms of career paths) we must move on and experience a range of schools, in different contexts and different geographical locations. For many of you, working in business, medicine, the law or other professions the same is probably true – perhaps you will have had three, four or maybe more employers in your careers.
This week we have been inspired by the idea of careers and life choices and our speaker at the parent workshop on Tuesday evening really gave us a sense of how diverse our children’s global careers will be. Victor Mirshawka Junior works in coaching and leadership and prepares his clients for the many opportunities that are presented to us as global citizens today. He suggested that our children will have 17 different jobs and 5 different careers in their lives; that they would have the flexibility and skills to work all around the world (or perhaps from their home offices and with global contacts and clients) and he prompted us to think about the challenges that this fast paced, techno-centric approach with rapid communication and an emphasis on creativity and entrepreneurship would bring. It was mind boggling to think about the way in which robotics and the communications industry has created new careers (youtubers for example) on one hand and replaced careers (data analysts) on the other.
I think the element of his message which was most stark was the unpredictability of the world of work that our children will inhabit. Molly is 8 years old. Born in 2008, she will probably retire when she is between 70 and 80 (because pensions will not support her at a retirement age of 60, however much she wants to give up work then). We cannot begin to imagine the world in 2090 – when she will be finishing her working life. Of course she will still need interpersonal and collaborative skills, problem solving skills and skills of innovation and critical thinking during her career – but will she still need to be able to drive? Probably not – driverless cars are already with us. Will she need to be able to learn languages and use them in her work? I hope that she will, but with immediate online audio translation, perhaps this will not be a major hurdle to global communication either? If she is a doctor, will she need to carry our surgical procedures or diagnoses? Perhaps not – because we already have complex medical programmes with algorithms that can do this for us, and robots to carry out operations.
The brave new world of careers that our children are exploring this week is not the one that we learnt about at school – it is far more exciting, much more interesting and with much more to offer than a job for life and a company pension. Listening to Victor was a little unnerving – but tantalising at the same time. Sadly I won’t be there to see Molly retire in the 2080s (unless medical science comes up with a technology to prolong my life) but I know it will be an exciting one. And if we have taught our children flexibility, determination and resilience, then they will have an incredibly rewarding journey through life.
In the words of Dr Seuss…. (one of my favourite philosophers!)