During the Tour Down Under, an ex-student of mine came over to Adelaide to watch the race and do some riding. He has just graduated from university and started his first full time job six months ago. At School, he loved both politics and history and continued his studies of these areas at university. After completing his undergraduate degree, he undertook a Masters of International Relations which he completed last year. His first job speaks loudly to the way the world of work is changing. He works for the Cohen Group, an organisation based in the USA that provides expertise and information across a broad range of fields. It was founded by its chair William Cohen who was US Secretary of Defence from 1997 to 2001. The company lists Sir Angus Houston as one of its Senior Counsel. My ex-student is a research assistant for the group and has already provided briefing papers to the Prime Minister’s Office, taken conference calls from Washington at midnight on a regular basis, and met with prominent Australian politicians as part of his work. And he does all of this working from home!
I think there are a number of things worthy of consideration here. Firstly, this young man was courageous enough to study the subjects he loved at both School and university. I say courageous because, sadly in my view, many of our students feel pressured to choose subjects at school as a strategy to achieve a high ATAR rather than out of a passion or love for the subject matter. As I wrote last week, what is going to be important in this changing employment landscape, are students who are capable of critical and creative thinking. Focussing on the result (ATAR) at the expense of the process of the learning will be of far less value in this world because in so doing, creative and critical thinking skills are likely to be compromised. In my view, it is more likely that a person is going to invest time, energy, and thought into their studies if they love what they are doing.
The second thing that is worth noting are the physical and temporal changes to the employment landscape of the future. It’s so exciting to think that there are going to be jobs like the one my ex-student has landed! Not only does his job highlight the fact that our children will be able to work for a company in another country from an office as small and cheap as the study at home, but it also shows how flexible these jobs may be in terms of working hours. Because he regularly has conference calls with Washington at midnight it means that his mornings are free for him to pursue his passion for riding!
So what does this all mean for us? On the School front, it means educating our students about the skills they will need for their futures and being committed in making our students focus on the process rather than the product of their learning. On the home front, I think we have a responsibility as parents to help our students understand that there are going to be amazing opportunities for them in their future and help them to think beyond their current understanding of what a good job for them might look like. What an exciting time to be alive! Pro Deo et Patria.
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School