The demand for skills has changed in the 21st century, with the market looking for analytical skills and interacting ability, said the Education Specialist in Teacher Education from the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Canada.
Dr Jessica N Aguti was speaking on ‘Training for the 21st Century’ at the WOU Seminar Forum attended by some 20 staff of Wawasan Open University at the main campus today.
She said, “For the 21st century, we need to train to prepare students for their future, not our past.” She stressed that higher education is not just about certification, but about “liberating the potential in students”, and so the training and programmes must promote interaction, debate, discussions and critical thinking.
She highlighted the challenges to higher education in the developing world, namely drop out and non completion rates, employability of graduates, relevancy and currency of training, quality and number of teachers, inadequate funding, and integration of ICTs. She said that in preparing young people for their future, trainers should not develop programmes tied to the technology of today, but be prepared for the “changes that keep coming”.
Elaborating on skills and attributes of 21st century learners, she remarked, “Today’s learners must be able to communicate orally and in written form, able to collaborate and work across the networks, are agile and adaptable, and have grit, that is, persistence, tolerance, patience, and strength.”
She continued, “Market is looking for people with self-regulation, not the kind of people you must follow-up all the time, don’t have self-control and cannot drive themselves.” Other qualities for 21st century learners are curiosity and imagination, a willingness to learn, to grow and to explore, initiative and entrepreneurialism, critical thinking and problem-solving, vision and resilience.
She said 21st century skills comprise learning and innovative skills like creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration; information, media and technology skills like information literacy, media literacy, and ICT literacy; and life and career skills like flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, and leadership and responsibility.
“As trainers for the 21st century, we have all these skills that we should bring into the training and make sure we have a balanced curriculum, as that’s what the market requires,” she stressed.
Dr Aguti shared a survey that showed that the top 10 jobs employers are having difficulty filling globally are skilled trade workers, engineers, sales representatives, technicians, accounting and finance staff, management/executives, IT staff, drivers, secretaries/PAs, administrative assistants and office support staff, and labourers.
She posed the question: “So if we are educating for the global market, what type of workers are we producing? Are we producing trainees/graduates who are neither here or there, and then wonder why they don’t get jobs?”