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Working the Future: What Skills Will Future Workers Need to Learn Now?

Posted by Categories: Career, Education, Higher Education, Teachers

Gifted student developing her skills for a career.

Today’s gifted young people may grow up wanting to be data contextualists, genetic modification designers, or augmented reality architects. Gone are the days of thinking one’s career options center around becoming doctors, lawyers, or firemen. In fact, experts predict that 65% of the jobs that will exist in the future haven’t even been created. The question for educators and parents then becomes “how do we prepare our gifted students for future careers that don’t even exist yet?”

We tackled that question at SIG in a previously offered course called Working the Future. There are several things we believe we must do to prepare students for an ever evolving workplace.

First, they need to gain new skills, such as the 14 hot new skills generated by the futurist Thomas Frey. Such new skills include devising the best possible feedback loops, learning to theorize, and making transitions and adaptations.

Second, we need to teach the skills of creative problem solving and engineering design. Students need to understand the stages of problem definition and understanding, solution finding, and implementation of ideas, as well as the cyclical nature of these stages.

Third, students need to learn some of the skills that futurists use. These techniques include protocols that anticipate the future, such as causal layered analysis and scenario planning, backcasting planning methods, futures workshops, simulations and modeling, visioning, and trend analyis. These are all tools that encourage us to think beyond our current understandings about the world, seek all potential solutions as opposed to the one correct answer, and encourage mental risk taking—all good qualities to instill in emerging gifted brains.

We can develop all these skills and include future career content through various activities such as:

  1. Role-playing scenarios using careers of the future
  2. Creating entrepreneurial organizations
  3. Researching careers and analyzing their evolution over time, past, present, and future
  4. Visualizing a future career that fits you and the path you will need to take to get there

No matter how you choose to help gifted, talented, and creative students feel prepared for an unknown future career, keep in mind that current jobs will definitely disappear and will be replaced by jobs we cannot yet envision. Regardless, there will always be work to do!

Imagining the future workplace is fun, useful, and necessary for gifted students to have the preparation needed to guide the direction of their personal future careers, as well as to guide them as they impact the global work world.

For a more detailed paper on teaching gifted students how to be prepared for the future world of work, please contact Dr. Barbara Swicord at

Gifted student developing her skills for a career. | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT), Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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