Preparing for a Wakanda Future

March 1, 2018

This blog was also cross-posted on Medium

I’m an ed tech investor. It’s my job to keep an eye on the future. What I’m seeing on the horizon is exciting, but also a bit scary. The world of work is rapidly changing. Many of the jobs that exist today won’t be around in the next 10–15 years, and workers are going to need a whole new set of skills. Like many, I’m concerned we aren’t doing enough to prepare students for this reality.

I’m also a mother of three curious and talented children, and it’s my job to keep my eyes on them — their dreams, passions and aspirations. The workforce of the future is not hypothetical for me. It is very real, both at home and at work. I had a moment in the past week that brought all this together for me.

I took my kids to see Black Panther, Disney’s new blockbuster film set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Featuring a formidable Black scientist princess from this futuristic, technologically-advanced country, the movie re-ignited my daughter’s interest in exploring careers in science and technology. As she and millions of other children leave the Black Panther movie inspired to contribute to a utopian vision of what our real-life world could become, there’s an opportunity. We have a chance to harness this inspiration by connecting them with meaningful experiences, mentors and career pathways to help them practically understand how to turn their dreams into reality.

What more can we do in schools to cultivate this discovery, exploration and connection to help our children prepare for jobs of the future? My colleagues and I at NewSchools are asking these questions every day — of teachers, ed tech developers and thought leaders. Recently, we also checked in with high school students about what they need, what they think is most effective, what they wish they had, and whether they feel prepared for the shifting landscape of tomorrow’s workplace.

Their responses were illuminating, not just in terms of what is awaiting them in a few years, but what we can do now to prepare the younger students coming after them. One of the most compelling points is that only half of the students interviewed feel confident their education and work experience has prepared them for the new jobs that will exist in 2030. In the coming weeks, we will release a short report with more of the key findings, and I hope you’ll take a look.

The world around us is changing quickly, and there is much to be done; we need everyone’s best thinking. We launched our NewSchools Ignite Future of Work challenge last week as one way to bring together ed tech entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of reimagining how we prepare our middle and high school kids for the future of work. The challenge is open until March 18, and we’re asking ed tech entrepreneurs to bring us their innovative ideas to support students by:

  • Weaving exploration of college and career pathways into core academic experiences;
  • Enabling experiential learning that authentically connects school and work;
  • Increasing access to college and career guidance, mentorship and counseling resources; and
  • Creating new opportunities to earn and use credits, badges and other signals of competence and achievement.

We encourage others to join us in this work. An ed tech challenge might not be your thing. Maybe it’s developing direct service programs, raising awareness, influencing policy, or something completely different. Whatever you can bring, bring it! The Wakanda future will be here before we know it.