To many the United States is still enjoying the Industrial Age, a time that began as we entered the 19th century. As the country shifted from the agrarian age, we say the introduction of the steam engine, the iron industry, and other such developments that signaled the shift in our economy and our American workforce.
Some see the current age, as we shift from an industrial economy to a digital, information society as a move from that Industrial Age. But as Klaus Schwaub, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum has written, we are actually entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR. It is a time identified with robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and other advances that were considered part of the science fiction of the first through third Industrial Revolutions.
As we enter 4IR, one thing is clear. We need to prepare the students of both today and tomorrow in ways that were different from the past as we ready learners for the possibilities and the jobs of the future. When we moved from an agrarian to an industrial economy, we saw a major shift in education. In the U.S., the industrial age meant a free public education available to all students. It meant more and more individuals pursuing postsecondary education. And it meant shifting from the skills needed for the farm to the skills needed for a factory.
While we all know there is no such thing as an “average” teacher, particularly with so many demands placed on educators these days, Education Week recently developed a strong package on what the teaching profession looks like today.
The video and accompanying editorial piece look to U.S. Department of Education survey data to give a clearer picture of what teachers look like today. Among the highlights:
- The average teacher today has 14 years of experience
- That average teacher is a 42-year-old white woman, and male teachers are getting harder and harder to find
- The average teacher works 53 hours in an average week
- The number of Hispanic teachers is on the rise
We may think that a student’s college and career choices are largely decided based on the high school experience. But recent data from the Student Research Foundation tells a more complicated story.
As this infographic depicts, high school experiences rank sixth, from a longer list of items, when it comes to influences of career path decisions for today’s high school students.
As we help our students and our own kids make important decisions regarding their futures, it is important we consider all of the influences impacting choices. High school experiences are in the mix, along with other influences.
Yes, some form of postsecondary education is important in today’s world and today’s economy. But as many continue to question the value of earning a four-year degree, it is equally important to understand the jobs that may be available to today’s – and tomorrow’s – high school graduates.
Over at Marketwatch, reporter Jillian Berman recently explored the 30 million or so jobs that are available without a four-year college degree. Berman found these jobs pay on average of $55,000 a year. And some of them may be surprising. Researchers are finding growth in areas such as:
With more and more high schools emphasizing the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education for all of their students, an important issue has been raised. How does one effectively recognize those students who are excelling in STEM?
In Colorado and elsewhere, that question has been answered with an effort to add a STEM designation to high school diplomas. There, teachers came together to help better recognize those students who were meeting state benchmarks when it came to workforce readiness in technology and computing. So STEM seals were born.
But the idea comes with some controversy. As Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week recently reported:
STEM endorsements are still so new overall that there are few insights on how they will play out on the ground for students—and whether the new credentials will come to signify anything of value to employers or colleges.