Technical Education Post

News and Information for Technical Educators

How Students can Stay Ahead of Machines in the Race for Jobs

SOURCE: Detroit Free Press, Kim Trent, Opinion

Michigan continues to be weirdly reliant on standardized tests that focus mainly on content knowledge as the best measure of educational success, even as higher education and workforce readiness experts become increasingly convinced that mastery of content alone is not predictive of college and career success.

Smart people like Michigan Future Inc.’s Lou Glazer have long argued that states who want to create a workforce that is ready for 21st century jobs would be wise to broaden their K-12 curricula beyond content mastery to what child development experts Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek call the Six Cs:

•  Collaboration: The ability to work with others to problem solve and create.

•  Creativity: The ability to construct original ideas that challenge or improve upon existing archetypes

•  Critical Thinking: The ability to synthesize information and build upon it to spark ideas and solutions.

•  Confidence: The ability to weather setbacks.

•  Communication: The ability to share ideas in a compelling way.

Content: If you’re going to be a successful adult, there are important facts  about math, science, and culture that you will need to know.

Michiganders should be especially worried about the costs of failing to make this shift, because it is becoming more evident every day that automation is going to fundamentally disrupt work in our state.

Mastery of content, while important, is no longer enough to make a human worker irreplaceable in an artificial intelligence-driven workplace. Let’s face it: Computers can process information more accurately, and at an exponentially faster rate, than any human. That means workers need to hone skills that are uniquely human — skills like creative problem-solving, and the ability to work effectively with others  — if they want to be relevant in an increasingly-automated world of work.

It’s clear that these traits are valued at the nation’s coolest workplaces. Google’s founders have touted their company’s famous 20% policy, a widely-lauded effort to encourage employees to set aside 20% of their time to tinker with pet projects that could lead to big ideas. Google products like Gmail are the result of this company-wide commitment.

In a recent speech at a conference for university trustees, Duncan Wardle, a former Disney vice president for innovation and creativity, discussed the important role that higher education can and should play in helping students to cultivate the four human traits that cannot be programmed: creativity, imagination, curiosity and intuition.

The most creative people I know are kindergartners, who routinely rely on Wardle’s four unprogrammable traits to learn. But somewhere along the line, someone decided that the joy of learning that five-year-old children experience was inappropriate for older students.

What a shame, especially when one considers the time and resources corporations are investing to re-infuse these traits into their workers! I hope our next state superintendent thinks like a kindergarten teacher. Michigan’s business leaders should hope so, too.

Kim Trent was elected to an eight-year term on the Wayne State University Board of Governors in 2012. She previously served as the director of Governor Jennifer M. Granholm’s southeast Michigan office.


Tom Shaw

Technical Education Post, Online Publisher

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