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Graduate Careers Q3 2022

How to prepare graduates for the future of work

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Chris Ryan

Meadhbh Costello

Policy Executive, Ibec

The world of work is changing. Globalisation, digitalisation and the adoption of new technologies are transforming not only the jobs we do but also how, when and where we work.

To prepare for the future of work, graduates will need to build their employability and lifelong learning skills to thrive in workplaces that are both more exciting but also much more unpredictable.

Developing ‘T-shaped graduates’

COVID-19 has demonstrated how quickly the world of work is transforming, often in unpredictable ways and at a faster pace than can be planned. Transformation is now coming so quickly that the majority of students in our primary schools today will work in careers that are yet to be invented.

To prepare graduates for the future of work they need to be equipped with the skills to build resilience to uncertainty and facilitate smoother career transitions. Government, educators and employers need to work together to foster the development of ‘T-shaped graduates’ who have a broad foundation of employability skills in addition to deep subject matter expertise.

We need to ensure that everyone can engage in learning throughout their career.

A broad spectrum of skills

Employability skills are the skills almost everyone will require to do almost every job. Graduates today can expect to work in diverse teams requiring robust communication, teamwork and leadership skills. To resolve complex challenges around issues such as the climate crisis and sustainability, employers need workers with strong creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

While personal leadership skills including the ability to self-reflect, deal with ambiguities and act autonomously will be much needed to navigate and advance in rapidly shifting economies. By engaging more students in problem-based learning and work experience, students will be better prepared to join the workforce and tackle real-life problems.

Lifelong learning

Developing graduates with curious minds, a thirst for knowledge and an appreciation for learning is one of the biggest successes that our education system can achieve. After all, the rate of change in society today means that the skills a graduate leaves education with no longer last a lifetime.

We need to ensure that everyone can engage in learning throughout their career. This can only be achieved by making space for innovation in the education system and embedding flexible pathways for learning including part-time courses, microcredentials and online learning.

In the coming years, we will continue to see the workplace transform in unexpected and exciting ways. Developing employability skills and a passion for lifelong learning are not only important for supporting graduates in transitioning to the workplace – but these skills will also form the bedrock for success throughout their careers.

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