Are we preparing our kids for the jobs of the future?

A new report from Accenture indicates that business leaders fear the Irish education system is not moving in the same direction as industry.

There is a concern that there is a disconnect in education when it comes to the employment journey and that soft skills like communications, work ethic, teamwork and problem-solving are not being taught.

At the same time teachers fear that many of the jobs their students are being prepared for could be obsolete by the time they enter the workforce.

“If we want Ireland to continue to provide a talent pool for the innovative companies based here, as well as improve the prospects of home-grown businesses, we must think hard about what they will need”

Accenture’s Learning to Lead report found that only one-third (36pc) of businesses think education is moving in the same direction as industry.

Two-thirds of teachers feel students are ready for world of work but 42pc of businesses say students are not well-equipped to meet needs of future workforce

“Soft” skills like communication (43pc), work ethic (40pc), teamwork (35pc), problem-solving (28pc) are seen as most needed by employers for the workforce of tomorrow.

Teachers are concerned that roles (65pc) and the industries (67pc) some students want to work in will be obsolete in the future.

Meanwhile, businesses are not putting investing new up-skilling with 62pc not putting any level of training in place for new skills.

What workers and employers will want in the workplace of tomorrow

According to the report, which studied the attitudes of 600 teachers, parents, young adults and employers, the speed and direction of travel in education is an issue for around half of companies.

Inside schools, sentiments are similar with students and teachers painting a picture of a second level education system struggling to keep up with the needs of the working world and future societal expectations.

“Our work at Accenture is all about responding to clients who are, in turn, responding to the needs of their customers,” said Accenture country managing director Alastair Blair.

“It doesn’t matter if they are in government, financial services, health or retail, they are all under enormous pressure to stay relevant and meet the demands of increasingly savvy customers. If we want Ireland to continue to provide a talent pool for the innovative companies based here, as well as improve the prospects of home-grown businesses, we must think hard about what they will need.

“We have a good education system in Ireland but, according to our report, there are challenges earlier in the education journey – particularly at second level – where the focus is more on aptitude than attitude. This is more than just a research announcement – it’s a call to action for a stronger approach to how government, business and education can work together to shape a society in Ireland fit for the opportunities of tomorrow,” said Blair.

The Learning to Lead report reinforces the Government’s National Skills Strategy 2025 report, which itself points  to the need for better alignment between education sectors; for greater collaboration and an understanding of progression pathways; and involving employers in “the development and provision of learning to ensure its relevance to the needs of the workplace.”

Blair said that continuous educator-employer dialogue would provide Ireland with a unique early warning system and Accenture’s report shows that it can ensure that the country stays ahead of the curve with a future-proof talent pipeline.

The outcome, the report urged, would be an Ireland that “stands out from the developed world economies with its future skills capabilities.”

Pictured: Alastair Blair, country managing director, Accenture Ireland. Image: Shane O’Neill, SON 

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 25 February, 2020