Preparing Students for Successful Careers with Makerspaces
Part 4 of a 5-part blog series exploring the topic of makerspaces in education. Click here to read part 1, Makerspaces: An Important Component of 21st Century Education part 2, Creating a Makerspace in Schools and part 3 Using Makerspaces to Promote a STEAM Curriculum
According to a U.S. Department of Labor report, “65% of today’s 2nd graders will work in jobs that don’t exist today.” That is a staggering number and leads to the question, “then how do educators prepare students for jobs if they don’t know what they will be?” The answer may lie in focusing on the core skills needed to succeed in any rapidly changing world with technology at its core.
As discussed in part one of this blog series, the key components of makerspace learning are:
- responsibility for self-directed learning
- exploring new ideas
- learning from failure
- learning to focus on a problem
- self-expression and collaboration
If we align these skills to what employers want most, both now and in the future, we can see how critical makerspaces are for the success of our students.
More so than hard skills like programming and technology certifications, employers are struggling to find workers with the right soft skills that can adapt to a changing workplace. Numerous surveys and articles about what employers want have been written and they highlight the current gap between what makes a valuable employee and what skills students have.
Developing Problem Solving Skills through Educational Makerspaces
According to a recent survey by The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the #2 skill employers are looking for is the ability to make decisions and solve problems. Makerspaces teach this highly valued “soft skill” by allowing students to learn how to problem solve on their own through self-directed learning. By identifying a new idea, creating a hypothesis, testing their solution and adjusting their idea based on their findings, problem solving becomes a natural skill of makerspaces students. When they get into the workforce, they aren’t daunted by challenges presented to them because they have been taught a method for solving problems on their own.
Self-Expression and Collaboration
A Harvard Business Review study found that the time managers and employees spend on collaborative activities has increased by more than 50% in the past 20 years. What does this mean for our students? Their workplace will require them to have interpersonal and influencer skills more than ever before. Their ability to succeed will depend on their ability to articulate their opinion in a way that helps their company find the right solution.
- Open floor plans. Companies have embraced open-plan offices that are designed to increase interaction and collaboration. Students will need to be able to work while others are working and talking around them. Makerspaces teach this skill by offering an open area for students to focus on their work.
- More than ever before, employees are asked to collaborate across departments and around the world. Influencing co-workers with various cultural norms at play can also be challenging. Something that might be perfectly fine to say in the United States might seem too direct in another culture. The soft skill of adaptability is key. Makerspaces teach students to be adaptable by teaching them a framework to explore new ideas. In fact, according to Paula Caligiuri, professor of international business and strategy at Northeastern University, “Developing cultural agility is more of an active process requiring social learning in a novel context with opportunities to practice new culturally appropriate behaviors, make some mistakes, receive feedback, and question one’s own assumptions.” Sound like a familiar process?
Across the board and across all surveys and articles, employers are looking for innovative, self-directed, adaptable employees with good communication and collaboration skills. In fact, some employers even noted a willingness to hire employees with these soft skills over people with the hard skills that they’re looking for. And, it is easy to see why. The hard skills of today will not be the hard skills of tomorrow. There are very few jobs for Cobalt programmers these days. However, an adaptable problem-solver can learn the hard skills they need and easily adjust to the future—whatever that may be.