How Teachers can Prepare Students for the New Mobile Workforce
Today’s students will enter a drastically different world of work than the one we grew up in.
Consider this: If I had told you 10 (or even five) years ago that somebody with a laptop and Wi-Fi connection would be as productive as someone who reports to a traditional office every day, you might’ve told me I was crazy. Few of us foresaw how advancing computer technology and ubiquitous wireless access would converge to change the way we work.
A lot of todays’ companies offer incredible freedom for people to work remotely, independently and during non-traditional work hours. They expect their workers to have superior reading, writing and interpersonal skills that enable interactions with people they rarely meet face-to-face.
As part of your classroom work, you need to pay attention to the working world your students will be entering — and to adjust your teaching choices as necessary.
What should we be focusing on?
Executive decision making
The increased liberty of working remotely and primarily through the computer increases the expectation that people manage their own time and responsibilities. In the traditional brick-and-mortar work environment, people reported to an office and worked under the supervision of an immediate superior. With today’s opportunity to work remotely, people need to be able to prioritize and make decisions about how to best manage this lack of formal supervision.
The nearby boss checking on work progress through regular meetings is less and less common. You can prepare your students for this by gradually releasing more and more responsibility to them. Longer projects and ample time to complete them independently are excellent ways to foster this ability.
Smartphones, email and changing work culture have all conspired to break down the walls of the typical workday. Some people struggle with the expectation that they keep working after traditional work hours, but others enjoy the opportunity to complete work at their own time and pace.
Today’s technology, and the ability to make one’s work portable, offers the opportunity to tailor people’s work. Students can and should be expected to complete reasonable and developmentally appropriate work outside of your regular classroom meeting times.
After all, they’ll be in for a rude awakening if they think today’s companies won’t expect them to work outside of traditional working hours.
Reading and writing
For all the flash and sizzle of technology, the ability to read information, process it and create clear, well-written responses is essential when people communicate via electronic devices. Rather than heralding the death of writing, today’s evolving work environment is requiring high-level reading and writing skills.
Regardless of your subject area, it’s imperative to integrate strong reading and writing expectations into your work. Gone are the days when you can say, “but students don’t have to write for my class.” They should be writing often, and they’ll benefit from seeing you do the same.
The decline of the lone wolf
Anytime access to technology elevates the expectations that workers can function as effective members of a group. A shut office door and a day’s worth of “alone” work are no longer part of people’s expected workflow.
That’s why you want to help your students improve their ability to be cohesive and contributing members of a group focused on a single project. Working well with others is no longer an option; it’s a requirement.
Though reading and writing aren’t going away, visual communications via infographics, slide presentations and short videos are also gaining prominence. Help your students out by offering assessments that expect them to show understanding through the presentation of visual information.
You’ll find that today’s students, with their increased visual consumption thanks to social media, will take naturally to these assignments. Interestingly enough, you may be the one who struggles the most with this type of work.
All of these new opportunities create different expectations for how people interact with each other. The inability for email to truly convey feeling and emotion, the impersonal feel of communicating only via computer and the human need to interact with others can all conspire to make virtual work an isolating experience.
You can support these new work expectations by helping your students learn and practice strong overall interpersonal skills. Being a productive member of a group, being patient with others, sharing responsibilities and having the ability to manage one’s work are all essential skills for students as they exit our schools and enter the new world of work.