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How will Trump’s Workforce Policy Advisory Board help students prepare for the jobs of the future?

Students at Fox Hollow Elementary in West Jordan use an app to pick out their school lunch. (Photo: Ravell Call / Deseret News)

There are 7.3 million job openings in America, and, the White House says, there is a serious gap between the skills employers need and the ones young Americans hold.

Our schools, in other words, are not preparing our youth for the modern workplace. Our children are being taught out-of-date skills in outmoded ways. In an era when everything is changing, they are being raised to enter a world that no longer exists.

That, at least, is the belief behind the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. This is a team, organized by President Trump’s administration, tasked with developing job training programs that will help better prepare students for a workforce dominated by new technologies.

Some of America’s most prominent minds sit on the board, including the chief executive officers of Apple, Lockheed Martin, Walmart. And with them sits Utah’s Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University.

Pulsipher spoke with KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic about the Advisory Board and his role in it, and explained why he believes that the workplaces our children enter will be nothing like the workplaces of the 20th century.

Scott Pulsipher on the workplace of the future

Workplace of the future

Students at Hillcrest Elementary School in Ogden take a coding class. (Photo: Mike Anderson / KSL TV)

“We are at the cusp of, arguably, what has been referred to as the fourth industrial revolution,” Pulsipher says.

The Information Age, he believes, marks a radical change in every part of how we live our lives. Our workplaces, in particular, are now driven by machines that can do more than human work alone and in less time, changing the roles of people in the workplace.

Our new roles, he believes, are now driven by data. While analyzing, interpreting, and acting on data used to be a skill set only required by a select few, Pulsipher believes that these skills are now essential to almost every job out there.

That means that students need to know how to use those new technologies and how to analyze all the data that comes with them – skills that aren’t necessarily taught at every school.

Pulsipher believes that’s part of the reason he was chosen to join the Workplace Advisory Board. He says that Western Governors University has been recognized for being able to prepare students for the workplace of today.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is how they prepare students for the workplace of the future.

Our world and its technologies are changing so rapidly, he believes, that it is now impossible for schools to teach their students every skill they’ll need for the rest of their lives before they graduate.

“We’re coming to get certifications and credentials,” he says, “but those skills, et cetera, will only last for three years.”

He says that schools still have a responsibility to teach students those skills, even if they will become outdated. However, they also have to provide them with what he calls enduring skills: abilities like analytic capability, communication, and interpersonal skills that will continue to help them through every technological change.

They’ll also have to get students ready to adapt for those technological changes. Pulsipher believes that workers are increasingly going to be expected to be lifelong learners who continually take advantage of opportunities to learn as their workplaces evolve.

In many ways, he believes this has already happened. Baby Boomer and Generation X workers are already struggling to learn how to use apps and computers in ways that weren’t possible when they entered their fields.

Our children, he believes, are going to go through the same struggles on a bigger scale. If they’re going to succeed, they’ll need to be ready for an era that expects them to adapt constantly.

“We know that that intelligence age is coming,” Pulsipher says. “We have to ensure that education pathways truly enable the workers of the future.”

The whole story

If you missed Scott Pulsipher live on KSL Newsradio, you can still catch his whole conversation with Dave & Dujanovic on their podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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