What Google learned about its employees and implications for today’s students?

Over the last year there has been a great deal of discussion about 21st Century learning and whether schools are still preparing their students well enough for their future careers. There has been a major focus on STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the curriculum. Others would add the letter A and consider STEAM a better acronym. The A stands for Artistic. The argument is that with a quantitative focus in subject disciplines the importance of creative thought is essential.

Schools are redesigning their science laboratories to be STEM laboratories and students are engaging in activities such as coding, programming, robotics, electronics and advanced manufacturing using 3-D printers or advanced equipment such as CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines. A visit to Flinders University Tonsley Park will give you an immediate impression that the jobs of the future are very different to the jobs of today and yesterday.

Google, a major multi-national company has researched its employees and came to an interesting conclusion. First, the conventional wisdom has always been that “hard skills” were valued the most. These skills are fundamental skills such as job specific competence, for instance a Chef having all the skills to cook and bake. A person at Google having all the IT skills to master a computer, software and associated tasks.

A project at Google reported that the top 8 most important qualities with its top employees had STEM related skills dead last. In fact the top 7 skills included “soft-skills” such as being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view), having empathy toward and being supportive, being a critical thinker and problem solver and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

STEM skills are vital to our future and the jobs that will be created in a very advanced technological world. But technology alone will not be enough! These soft-skills are what we fundamentally teach and integrate in subjects such as The Arts, English, Religious Education and Humanities as well as the Sciences, Technology and Mathematics. A secondary education which continues to provide a basis for growing and nurturing a student is critical.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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