GAP Summit calls for better career education in schools

| February 6, 2020

As discussions about the future of jobs and lifelong learning intensify around the world, young people are increasingly looking for meaningful career advice to help them navigate the ever more complex world of work. The latest report from Global Access Partners offers some new perspectives.

Last week, the OECD and PISA held a global webinar to discuss career aspirations of young people from around the world. Informing the event was the latest global survey of 15-year-olds and their hopes for the future. It revealed that young people still tend to choose their ‘dream job’ from a narrow list of traditional occupations, either ignoring or being unaware of new opportunities emerging from digitisation.

These findings were deemed important enough to warrant a presentation at Davos, where they were discussed by business leaders, teachers and school students, and the debate has continued ever since on online forums and social media.

The OECD webinar coincided with the release of the report from GAP’s 10thAnnual Economic Summit held on 19-20 September last year. The Summit placed career education firmly at the centre of the debate about the future of jobs, and framed learning as a lifelong pursuit for people of all ages.

Over 130 Australian and international thought leaders gathered in the NSW Legislative Assembly Chamber at the invitation of Global Access Partners, to discuss the changing demands of the job market in a volatile and fast-moving economy.

The selection of ‘Beyond Education’as the Summit theme was a matter of personal choice, supported by a group of trusted advisors who formed the Summit’s steering committee.

GAP Summits are never one-off events: they are supported by many GAP activities in the lead-up period, and the latest Summit was no exception. It was the culmination of several streams of work, including early childhood education and school-to-work pathways, spearheaded by the release of two policy proposalsby the GAP Taskforce on Youth Transitions at the Summit’s opening dinner.

Speakers at the Summit stressed the importance of learning at every stage of life. They suggested that schools and universities should continue to interact with former students long after graduation, and that people should be able to re-enter education whenever they need in order to improve their skills. Federal and state governments, educational institutions, industry and individuals all play a part in a positive and concerted effort to ensure the Australian workforce can tackle current and future challenges. Better incentives and support for reskilling, micro-credentials and other learning opportunities beyond formal qualifications were a focus of discussion.

Delegates thought employers could do more to retrain their workers and support their job transitions, but also emphasised the individual responsibility of workers for their lives and careers.

The Summit took a largely a positive view on new technology and its impact on the future of jobs, seeing its primary effect in the augmentation of existing jobs, rather than their destruction.

Improving career advice in schools was not the only solution proposed by the delegates. The Summit raised many good ideas, some of which particularly resonated with me, for example:

  • a call for primary schools to provide free lunches and offer more time for recreation;
  • steps to improve career flexibility for teachers, allowing them to diversify into other jobs and careers, while returning to teaching at a later date to use that experience in their teaching;
  • a greater focus on excellence at every level of education, while balancing choice and equality, particularly for the disadvantaged;
  • investment in people’s foundational capacity and the all-important ‘soft skills’ which are transferable across careers;
  • an active role for older talent in the future workforce;
  • embracing today’s ‘Industrial Renaissance’ as an era where creativity and imagination come to the fore, underpinned by the ‘colossus of human knowledge’ now accessible to everyone through the Internet;
  • cultivating a ‘yes, and’ mindset and an optimistic outlook in life to stay open to new choices, ideas and experiences.

I am looking forward to progressing these ideas through:

  1. GAP Taskforce on Career Advice
  2. GAP Taskforce on Early Childhood Education,
  3. A working group for the establishment of an ‘Institute for Human Progress

These multidisciplinary groups will follow our ‘second track’ process, honed over decades of practice at GAP. I am encouraged by the growing recognition of ‘second track’ approaches in tackling complex problems, including an excellent editorial in The Economist a couple of weeks ago. Our new journal of Behavioural Economics and Social Systems (BESS), launched at the Summit, will explore the theory underpinning the practice of ‘second track’, and I am looking forward to its next edition, due in May.

The Summit sparked many conversations among attendees which continued after the event, and I’d like to thank Dr Caitlin Ruddock, Jan Owen AM and David Jonas for their thought-provoking blogposts on First 5000.

The 2019 GAP Summit Report of Proceedings is available online on the GAP website, and I encourage the First 5000  community to read it in full and reflect on its ideas and recommendations.