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Career exploration is becoming an important part of secondary school experience. There is no denying the fact that we live in a very sophisticated world and our Gen Z teenagers are clearly fortunate to be surrounded by many influences in this ever evolving environment. This often shapes their thinking and perspective so they tend to look at lifestyles and careers differently from their parents. 

A new World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs 2018, says that 75 million jobs will be displaced by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation, but suggests that 133 million new jobs may be created as organisations shift the balance between human workers and machines: a net gain of 58 million. As the fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, the question arises: are today’s students acquiring relevant skills and developing a mindset that will set them up for success in futuristic jobs and industries as they navigate a rigorous DP (Diploma Programme) academic programme? Will it help to align and validate their thinking if students were to hear from key industry professionals on career trends?

As a parent, I believe that grade 10 is an ideal time to start formal conversations with students as they prepare for their formative and summative assessments. Since they gain valuable insights from listening to industry experts and asking questions, our students are motivated to make informed and responsible choices on their learning. With this in mind, I collaborated with the CIS university advising team to organise a career exploration talk for grade 10s.  

To support the grade 10s’ growth mindset during their P2 (Personal Project) preparations, we formed a series of discussion panels/Q&A sessions with 3 to 4 external volunteer speakers each:

A moderator (Kemal Taskin, Karel De Cock, Jez Gray and Lisa Miller) was also assigned to each panel to facilitate discussions between the speakers and students. It was mandatory for each student to sign up for one panel, so it could help them narrow down their choices and make it easier for them to reflect on their possible future pathways. All in all, this approach gave our students ample opportunities to actively get involved in the discussions and make informed choices. 

Interesting takeaways

As with any discussion with CIS students, there were many interesting takeaways. Students not only learned how to build and leverage on their academic and work portfolio, they also learned the importance of soft skills such as critical thinking and innovative approaches in industries like technology, international business and media. 

For instance, one of the panelists explained to the students how he ended up securing a prestigious Rhode Scholarship to NYU (New York University) despite being an average student in high school, and an engineer professional on the technology panel shared how she had to learn multiple soft skills on the fly to excel at her job, instead of just relying on her engineering degree. 

These insights were especially valuable for our students since there is a mounting pressure on them to acquire mathematical and science skills in order to successfully apply for jobs in the future. Instead of focusing on academic results, our students were encouraged to equip themselves with future-ready skills such as innovation and problem solving. Think coders with excellent presentation skills, entrepreneurs who solve a pressing health problem or business people who work to make this world a better and more sustainable place to live in. 

Although this career talk offered only a brief exposure to industry professionals, it was great to see our grade 10 students begin meaningful conversations at school with industry professionals. It also offered a well-timed opportunity for grade 10s to reflect on their academic journey and choices going forward before they begin their DP course for the next two years. 

Saima Ahmed is currently Head of Business Development and Marketing at a startup in Singapore. She is a global citizen who has lived in five countries. She grew up in Pakistan and calls Canada her home where her children were born. As the mom of a future DP student, her goal is to complete two half marathons to gain the resilience and stamina to continue supporting her children through the rigours of the DP programme. 

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