entrepreneurial educationThe Next Lab

Preparing students for the future of work

It is critical to note the top three:

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Complex Problem Solving

No matter what happens with technology, the value that people bring to work, and the kinds of skills that will set high performers apart, can be summed up as the ability to look at problems and opportunities from many different angles and frame them in a way that will lead to new, innovative ideas and solutions.

Employees and entrepreneurs who have the ability to imagine something that doesn’t exist right now and make it a reality will be valuable, whether inside a company or building one. It is our job, as parents and educators, to proactively help our children and students to build these skills so that no matter what field they choose to go into, they have a foundation in these enduring skills.

I’ve been seeing these changes in the business world up close, and I can tell you that their importance is only growing. I spent the past year traveling around the country teaching Fortune 500 executives how to implement design thinking in their businesses because they know the framework helps their employees build these skills in creativity and complex problem solving.

This summer, I am making it my mission to give students in Austin a head start in learning and implementing these skills by launching The Next Lab. During two separate weeklong programs, I am partnering with local business leaders to guide students through the process of taking an idea from concept to prototype and focusing on teaching the creative, critical thinking, and problem solving skills that will help them succeed, whether they want a great job with a bright future or want to start their own thing.

But being proactive about supporting these kinds of skills at home doesn’t have to wait for summer! Here are some ideas and strategies for getting started:

Embrace project-based learning. Students who are getting better at the kind of planning, problem solving, and follow-through that it takes to turn an idea into reality are getting a head start on the kind of skills they’ll need to start their own businesses or advance their careers. Whether you are looking at homeschooling options or supplementing classroom education with your own home projects, this site has a great list of 10 ways to support project-based learning at home for all ages.

Learn creative thinking. If you’re like many parents, when you see the word creativity, you immediately think about art, theater, and music. It’s true that these fields require creativity, but the future of business and technology needs as much if not more creative thinking. Mind Tools has some great tools and techniques, many of which can be adapted for teens to approach problems creatively at school or at home.

Develop an entrepreneurial mindset. This conjures up ideas of people starting businesses and slaving away in their basement. Starting your own business will always be an option, but in the new future of work, Fortune 500 businesses will need entrepreneurial thinking to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. For ideas on how to support kids who have great people skills but may struggle in school, watch this TED Talk from Cameron Herold, a Canadian entrepreneur who is raising his kids to be entrepreneurs too.

Whether at The Next Lab or in your own home, I hope that all of this helps you get a head start on the future of work!

Learn more about The Next Lab summer programs here.

Liya James


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