When analysing the employability potential of youngsters in the future labour marker, it is worth starting with a revision of facts and figures around the theme, as well as recalling the milestones shaping the relevant political and legislative landscape. Taking this step for granted, it seems useful to underline that it is no coincidence if the main findings emerging from recent labour market skills intelligence sources (see e.g. the last Future of Jobs report or the Skills Panorama) are in line with the current standards outlined in the fields of education and employment through a series of reforms being at the core of the EU policy agenda post-2020 (the Youth Goals towards 2027 or the DigComp 2.1., just to cite few). All reveal the magnitude of technologic development, coupled with socio-economic and demographic trends, and its impact on industries, job functions, employment levels and new skills needs. In plan words: the urgency of a paradigm shift from a silo to a systemic approach is hot on the skills and jobs’ discourse, too.
In a more and more interconnected and interdependent world (the new era we are living in is also called “Fourth Industrial Revolution”), a variety of actors – namely policy makers, institutions, teachers and career experts, employers, but also families, individuals and the civil society as a whole – must be aware that changes to the education system often occur at a slower pace than those on the labour market, and that the education system needs to communicate better with the labour market to avoid generating skills gaps which contribute to increasing unemployment rates. On the other hand, a pre-requisite for rethinking the world of work is the awareness around the complexity and speed of technological and digital advancements.
How to deal with the arduous undertaking of delivering relevant information around the future of skills and jobs to (young) people – having a low attention span, then? How to be effective and catch people’s interest in less than 8 seconds, while engaging them towards a longer learning path?
Career practitioners need to constantly review their own knowledge and the tools they use in order to deliver guidance which is appropriate for the reality of the contemporary labour market. The scope of support material and resources may stay the same, but they need to be digitalised and constantly reviewed, in order to make sure they remain impactful for younger generations.
In this sense, the features of virtual worlds make them an effective education tool as they enable engagement with students via more comprehensive learning activities. In particular, virtual worlds can provide learners with a full understanding of a situation using immersive 3D experiences which allow the learner to freely wander through the learning environment. Through this, they can explore the virtual world, find a purpose, act, make mistakes, collaborate and communicate with other learners and this explains the growing interest in learning and teaching within 3D virtual worlds from a large number of schools and universities. Across the literature on virtual worlds, the conclusions are that these worlds can enhance intrinsic motivation, stimulate excellence in learning outcomes, and promote industry/research application. In addition to education in general, virtual worlds can have an important impact on the improvement of career management skills, equipping the individual with transversal (key) competences to better manage and develop his/her potential in education, work and life in complex situations.
This is the ratio behind the launch, in 2018, of a forward-looking initiative aimed at transforming the career guidance of the next generation through an innovative, game-based scenario approach in a view to prepare it for the jobs of the future: practically, the players participate with their avatars in the game, which teleports them in 2050 to discover how the world of work is going to change. The missions and challenges in the game help participants find out about the jobs of the future and develop many career skills in the same time. This, and much more, is Future Time Traveller (www.future-time-traveller.eu), an ambitious 3-years project co-funded under the Erasmus Plus programme of the European Union and run by an enthusiastic consortium made up of 7 organizations active in the field of lifelong learning and career guidance in Europe.
Rooted in the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach and backed by the need for a collective responsibility towards a wide and long-lasting impact, the action primarily aims at fostering a future-oriented mindset among young people through an innovative career exploration game in 3D virtual world, made up of a series of scenarios exploring the future labour market trends, namely emerging jobs and skills, and likely to boost the development of a sense of ownership and optimism around their own future.
Up to December 31st, 2019, the active participation and empowerment of young people aged 13-19 will be also fostered via the Time Capsule “Jobs of the Future” contest: it encourages young people to explore their idea of what kind of jobs, challenges and skills may appear in the future labour market. The participants can describe their ideas in a short text, a 1-minute video or a short ppt presentation, and the winners will be awarded with amazing tech gadgets, e.g. solar chargers, action cameras and Bluetooth speakers.
Referring to the same deadline, the consortium also designed a great opportunity – in the shape of a European competition – for career guidance experts to launch and promote innovative tools, interactive games, scenarios, methods, platforms and other digital and non-digital game-based instruments for career guidance, information and counselling addressing digitally native clients. Also, in a view to enhance the capacity of career guidance practitioners for delivering future-oriented career services (the project study reports that more than 1/3 of the professionals interviewed state their ability to apply digital tools is either “fair” – 28% – or “needs improvement” – 10%), the consortium is producing practical guidelines, workshops and a best practices e-book.
In the end, a sound future-oriented approach is needed from the policy level. The aforementioned study, developed in the format of a future-looking career guidance agenda, aims at providing policy makers with a ready to use tool collecting at once needs’ evidences from a variety of relevant stakeholders, as well as a detailed description of the methodology used. The policy engagement around the process could reach different degrees in order to positively affect the project mission: giving voice and spreading on a multi-level dimension (from the local to the national and European sphere) the specific initiative(s); adapting the agenda and develop more flexible education and training systems in a long-life learning perspective; and of course stimulating investments, which should be more consistent with the new emerging realities.
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