October 08, 2010- http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978584382
The New York Times today posted a ReadWriteWeb story about Google’s recently launched contest to encourage young kids to begin learning to code “The Google Open Source Program is announcing a new outreach effort, aimed at 13- to 18-year-old students around the world. Google Code-in will operate in a similar fashion to Google’s Summer of Code, giving students the opportunity to work in open-source projects.” While this is great PR for Google, and an admirable program to boot, it’s also a fascinating example of how today’s largest and most successful companies are assuming a significant role in the training and formation of their future workforce in the U.S.
A couple of years ago a viral video which featured a flash animated presented titled “Did You Know?” made the rounds and introduced us to incredible factoids about the modern world that we live in. One of the information nuggets that stood out among the many others was ““the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004… We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist… Using technologies that haven’t been invented… In order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” It was a startling, yet very believable statement, and one that many people have since cited.
A now-dated 2006 Forbes article addressed this fact and listed jobs that don’t yet exist but should be in high demand within 20 years, jobs that will disappear within 20 years, and jobs that will always exist. For example, some jobs that are expected to disappear are booksellers, car technicians, miners, cashiers, and encyclopedia writers (if they haven’t already). The presented jobs of the future were slightly ominous and depressing in a sort of sci-fi way, such as genetic screening technicians, quarantine enforcers, drowned city specialists (Atlantis, anyone?) robot mechanics and space tour guides. Lastly, those jobs that will always be around? Pretty self explanatory. Prostitution is always high on the list, as are politicians, religious leaders, barbers and artists.
However, if everyone can’t be a hair stylist, how do we prepare the world’s children for an entire generation of jobs we don’t even know about? Among educators, the prevailing sentiment is that the best we can do is to arm tomorrow’s kids with problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and endless curiosity. However, since most teachers are dealing with a very archaic and traditionally designed curriculum, much of the responsibility of training and forming the world’s new thinkers may continue to fall upon the shoulders of the tech giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is much easier to consider what future skills will be needed when your entire survival as a company depends upon being able to look into a crystal technology ball and anticipate the future needs of an entire world.