At the beginning of the year we often think about our plans for the future – both short and long term. And I am sure you all have them. For the Upper Sixth and Form 5 the IGCSE and IB exams are looming large in their lives and inevitably they are thinking about what impact the results might have on their future choices – where to go and what to study for university for example, and what they might do for a career afterwards… our pupils are asked many times in their school careers: “‘What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of them have a clear idea from an early age – others keep changing their minds, and some still don’t know when they collect their IB results and head off to university! One of the things that always impresses me (and I am very proud of) about St. Paul’s pupils, is that they are incredibly ambitious and aspirational. The vast majority of them will end up as leaders in their chosen professions, running companies, perhaps working in family firms that have been successful for a number of generations. Some of them will end up in positions of political authority in Brazil and many will work for large multinational companies in leadership roles in other parts of the world. They will be professionally successful, I am sure, and will also, I hope, be fulfilled and happy in their working life and not just because they earn a lot of money!
Later this term, during careers week, they will have the chance to start to think about professionals and occupations that are different and that they did not know about before, and indeed, some which did not exist some years ago and certainly not when I was in primary school. The world of work is constantly changing and it is interesting to see some of the ways that people earn their living now which were not even thought of in a world before technology dominated our everyday lives. A recent piece of research, published in the UK shows what children aspire to now as a way to earn a living – and it is rather surprising in some ways, and very reassuring in others.
Being a celebrity (whether that is playing for a top football team, appearing on TV or as a musician) has always attracted young children because it seems glamorous and probably quite easy. But the more traditional celebrity culture seems to be being replaced by a new type of celebrity – the vlogger, who makes YouTube videos on a wide range of subjects, or posts on Instagram, attracts thousands of followers and starts to rack up enormous sums of money in advertising revenues.
You may have heard of Zoella, (Zoe Sugg). She lives in Brighton, is 27 and a full time video blogger. She has over 12 million subscribers on one YouTube channel and 4.8 million on another. She makes videos about beauty tips and products, shared with other young people and teenagers. She has published her first novel, which may not be very good at all, I have no idea, but not surprisingly sold more copies in its first week than any other first time novelist. Being a vlogger seems to be quite lucrative – according to the Instyle.co.uk website, in September 2017, Zoella earned about £50,000 per month – that’s R$200,000. Not bad for endorsing a few beauty products and doing your makeup in your bedroom!
So what other strange jobs might there be that today’s young people might find themselves doing in the future? We hear time and time again in education that we are preparing our pupils for a world that does not yet exist. This is true and career paths are an important part of this. Decades ago, when we left school we assumed we would do a job pretty similar to our own parents, probably the same career for life, and probably in a way that was very similar to generations beforehand. But the brave new world of technology, and the demise of traditional ways of doing things, (and the need to find new and creative approaches to life) means that this might not be the case:
Think about Air BNB. How many of you have stayed in an Air BNB?
2 million people stay in a property let through Air BNB every night! There are listings in 191 countries – and it is worth more than the top 5 hotel groups in the world put together – Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Wyndham Worldwide and Accor Hotel Group. Air BNB did not exist in 2007, it owns no properties and employs a handful of people compared to these established hotel chains – and yet is makes more money and is valued higher. The career path “letting out other people’s spare rooms” did not exist before Air BNB came along (not really anyway) and now it seems to have conquered the world.
We used to use licensed cabs, that cost a lot, and that we had to wait for for longer. Someone then had the idea that more or less any driver could use their car as a taxi – that they could charge less and provide a quicker service. Uber came into being. In many cities the rise of Uber has been a huge challenge to the local taxi companies – and has forced them to look at their service to customers. Uber started in March 2009 – before that, Uber was just a German word meaning over, across or above. Now, even if we don’t use Uber cabs – we certainly know what they are. So there is another new career – Uber driver.
And who thinks a surgeon is a job for a human being? Since 2000, worldwide about 2 million operations have been carried out by medical robots. Precision, keyhole surgeries can be carried out by these robots which can seek out and destroy cancers, carry out minor operations and set bones. All without causing so much trauma as traditional surgery and hence reducing the recovery time and cutting costs to health service providers. For our pupils who are interested in being surgeons, or developing the technology to create robots like these – there is a huge range of possibilities that did not exist in the 20th century. How about a career as a robotic surgeon technician for example?
According to the world economic annual forum from 2016, there are many jobs that did not exist 10 years ago, and here are their top 10:
App developer; Social media manager; Uber driver; Driverless car engineer; Cloud computing specialist; Big data analyst; You Tube content generator; Sustainability manager; Drone operator; Millennial generation expert.
Some of them you would have to look up to understand (like I did) – and I am sure that by the time Form 1 are sixth formers, this list will be different. The possibilities are endless.
Whether our young people have decided on a career path yet or not, is perhaps not that important. What is key is that school prepares them to be ambitious to do something fascinating and enjoyable and that they will excel in it. I am glad to see that in the original list of things children want to do that I started with, teacher is still there… at number 2. It is, of course, the most important job in the world – and in my view the most enjoyable – because it prepares our pupils to have the adaptability, creativity, flexibility, ambition and skills needed to do all the other jobs – including the ones that have not been invented yet. What a privilege.