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Confidence Is the Currency of the Future

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By 2020, more than five million jobs are expected to be lost to robots and artificial intelligence. And in the next two decades, graduates will be going into jobs that don’t yet exist.

Roberto Westbrook | Getty Images

Anticipating this future, businesses and employers are overhauling their recruitment strategies. Job hopping has replaced the one job, one-employer career, and hybrid jobs are on the rise.

Employers want recruits who have strong technical and soft skills such as empathy and flexibility. They want to hire people who can combine acumen and creativity, collaboration and communication to achieve something unique. 

Related: Forget Your Degree. Start a Business.

But our world faces an acute shortage of candidates who fill these criteria. 

Globally, 75 million young adults are unemployed despite spending years at school. Yet, nearly 60 percent of employers say they are having trouble recruiting, because today’s graduates don’t have the skills they need. 

And what are these skills? According IBM’s Global CEO survey, CEOs say the skills they need are: creativity, collaboration, communication and flexibility. 

And this is not just about the job market. Even our governments and policymakers know that their countries need creative and innovative citizens to build happy, sustainable societies. 

Countries like Saudi Arabia and Canada are on the path to power themselves with knowledge instead of oil and gas. China knows that it has to transition from "Made in China" to "Create in China" in order to maintain growth.

African countries realize, that with the robots on their way, they will probably not have their chance at being the factory of the world, and that they will have to leapfrog quickly to become service and knowledge-based economies. 

But is education really preparing our young people for these challenges and for the unknown future? 

Not really. 

We are now in the 21st century, but our education systems remain frozen in time -- in the 19th century. Even though we are born curious and creative, more often than not, these qualities are educated out of us.

Schools continue to be like factories, placing learners on conveyor belts to produce millions of graduates each year. Consequently, too much schooling is delivering too little, relevant learning for the world of today. 

So how do we give education a renewed sense of purpose and relevance? How do we bridge the gap between the education we have and the education we need? 

Related: 8 Hugely Successful People Who Didn't Graduate College

This week I am in Montreal, Canada to attend the C2 (Commerce + Creativity) conference, where these questions are also been raised. The event’s theme, The Many, focuses on how power is shifting from the hands of few into the hands of the many.

So indeed, how do we empower the many with skills to thrive in the future? 

When we talk about the future of education and skills development, technology has a big role to play. Indeed, thanks to technology, knowledge is no longer a rare commodity. But too much focus remains on device and content distribution. Learners living in the remote parts of the world have access to content but are rarely taught to apply it the real world. 

My point here is that, if we are not careful, technology will only make bad education worse. We cannot simply offload education and teachers to technology.

I believe schools and universities are here to stay. But when we imagine schools of the future, let’s imagine places where we learn to learn, where talent and self-esteem are nurtured, where failure and risk were not frowned upon.

Future schools and universities will be "learning spaces" where the focus will shift from competition to collaboration, from listening to doing and from attending to being. Students will work in teams to solve real-world problems like providing safe drinking water or taking care of the elderly. Teachers will shift from being "sage on stage" to mentors and guides, just like Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society. 

And homework will be about absorbing knowledge at home and learning to apply it during class. Similarly, exams will focus more on assessing skills rather than filling several sheets of paper to attest acquisition of content. Innovation in education often sounds like building a plane up in the air. Unrealistic. But the good news is that change is underway in the four corners of the world. 

Education initiatives like Escuela Nueva, Big Picture Learning, Ideas Box and Me and MyCity are concrete examples. The initiatives are evidence that change is possible and it is scalable. Escuela Nueva originated in Colombia but is now implemented in at least 16 countries around the world, reaching over five million children. Ideas Box is changing learners’ lives in refugee camps in Jordan and Burundi but also in underprivileged communities in countries like France and the U.S. 

Each organization focuses on what students care about. They work on projects that address local challenges. Teachers are guides and mentors. Tests are about assessing and not measuring. And each initiative leverages technology as and when needed.

These initiatives demonstrate that it is possible to foster creativity and collaboration in school, it is possible to hone innate skills like critical thinking and communication, and it is possible to help learners develop a taste for risk and failure. 

And most importantly, these projects are instilling the skill of all skills in learners: confidence. Confidence goes beyond money, countries, cultures, age and profession. It’s a skill that will drive us -- and drive the many -- into the unknown.

Related: Sir Ken Robinson Is In His Element, Talking About How People Can Do Their Best Work

Confidence drives creativity, confidence allows us to confront failure, confidence feeds our curiosity to explore, and confidence motivates us to learn. 

And this is what education should be about 

In fact, confidence is the real currency of the future. 

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