Acting Head of History

The most valuable skills will be distinctively human characteristics.

The role of the Humanities in a post-COVID world

Studying trends in society and understanding our historical past gives us the  hindsight to be able to look at evidence and data and apply it directly to our approach for the future. In this tumultuous and unpredictable time of recession, rise in unemployment numbers, damage to productivity, and an unstable economic position, we must look forward to a time beyond COVID and prepare ourselves for the new world[2].

We know from looking at our social history that, during a market crash, there is an employment void that allows for entrepreneurs and challenger brands to become market leaders. If we have learnt anything over the last hundred years – through the Spanish Flu, Great Depression, post-WWII market, 1970-80s oil crises, the Millennium Bug, early 2000s dot-com bubble burst and the Global Financial Crisis – it is that economies bounce back, employment numbers recover, housing prices increase and life continues. What we also learn from studying the past is that immediately after these recessions, there is a reshuffling of what we consider ‘essential jobs;’ there is an inevitable gap in the marketplace where businesses seek to employ people with unique skill sets who have the ability to be adaptable. Therefore, the art of studying the past allows us to inevitably look forward to the future and develop in our students the skills necessary for the post-COVID world.

What, then, are these skills necessary for the new world? According to Google, ‘problem solving, team working, and communication are the skills that are currently most in demand in the workplace’[3]. Bernard Marr from Forbes Magazine has promoted Emotional Intelligence, critical thinking, adaptability and flexibility, creativity and innovation as essential skills for the new workforce[4]. Marr reinforces the need for human ingenuity,  creativity and the ability to objectively evaluate information from diverse sources to determine accuracy and credibility and to inform decision-making[5]. Ultimately, the recurring message among the giants in the industries, and the approach that universities are encouraging, is the need for the skills taught through the Humanities, such as empathy or emotional intelligence – the ability to be in control of our own emotions and be aware and adaptable to those of others.

What COVID has shown us is that knowledge is easy to codify, and jobs have been seamlessly transferred to – or replaced by – machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence. What remains, however, are the complex and content-dependent human characteristics like empathy, creativity and leadership initiatives that remain in the domain of the Humanities. Universities are also looking at developing and encouraging skills of the future. Open Universities Australia is now encouraging a section on your CV dedicated to ‘humanity’ and ‘empathy’, which centers on your ‘Storytelling’ (communication) skills and Emotional Intelligence – inclusive of peoples’ ability to think and judge critically, and the ability to understand and adopt resilience[6]. Sydney University has taken on a similar approach, identifying the need for the new workforce to have a truly global perspective with cultural competence built around an international and historical understanding of societies[7].

Ultimately, the commitment to a lifetime of learning, the resilience already shown by the Loreto Normanhurst girls, and the desire to be flexible, adaptable and empathetic will set our girls up for success in the post-COVID world.

 

Mr Michael Rafe

Acting Head of History

 

 

[1] AlphaBeta, “Future Skills”, Google Australia, January 2019, p.17

[2] The World Bank, “The Global Economic Outlook During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Changed World”, 8 June, 2020.

[3] The Economist, “Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future”, 2020, p.3

[4] Bernard Marr, “8 Job Skills To Succeed in a Post-Coronavirus World”, Forbes Magazine, 17 April, 2020

[5] Bernard Marr, Ibid

[6] Open Universities Australia, “3 soft skills you’ll need for a post-COVID workforce”, 5 June, 2020.

[7] University of Sydney, “4 skills graduates need to get a job post COVID-19”, 13 July, 2020.