As our Year 12 students move in to their last few weeks at Loreto Normanhurst and bring to a close thirteen years of schooling, our hearts and minds turn more acutely to what the future may hold for these women who are living the ‘100 Year Life’. I wonder if you’ve heard of the 100 Year Life? I heard of it two years ago from London Business School Professor, Lynda Gratton, speaking about the Future of Work. From taking us through the demography and question of how long we live, Gratton made the following observations:
- Prepare to work until you’re 80. There has been a sudden boom in life expectancy. If you make it to 60, your life expectancy is 100. So we will have more years of good health after traditional ‘retirement’. The three stage life (educated, work, retire) won’t be a reality for much longer. The traditional three stage life is already changing and will change considerably. As we know, you can’t have education only at beginning of life – as lifelong learners, we need to keep coming back to it.
- Intangible assets are crucial and so prepare for transformation. As you live a long life, you need to build the capacity to transform yourself. If life is long, you don’t have to be the same person throughout your life. In a long life, you have the opportunity to build experiences that money can’t buy and that will make a difference to your life. And so, we need to think of work as a place where intangible assets are built as people move into an exploration phase. We see this by people broadening their experiences before deciding ‘what you want to do.’ It might be at beginning of working life, and it could be in the middle.
- Lives are lived in the company of others. This is a crucial point when thought of in the context of long lives. As members of a community as strongly built as ours here at Loreto Normanhurst, we know too well the power of living lives as companions of one another. Gratton argues that it is wise to build networks with people who are different from you because somewhere within that network is the person you could become.
- Think about skills. What sort of jobs will there be? What’s happening with AI, robotics and automation? There is a major change in jobs and therefore careers. This isn’t just about to happen, this is happening. It is wise to ask two questions about a job: is it routine? Does it require cognitive complexity/analytical? Those which fall within the second category are the valuable jobs and the ones that are difficult for AI to take over. They are the jobs that require what humans do best – creativity, innovation, complex collaboration, hypothesis forming.
- Balance work and home. The industrial revolution and the industrialisation of life gave us the “9 to 5 day” and the “weekend”. Before then, people worked in homes or villages. Today, technology will always connect you for 24 hours a day. For many people, work has got a lot of demands and obligations (some necessary), little discretionary time and constraints about how, when and where you work. Gratton argues that it is time to re-engineer work and think more about a person’s life as a whole, some of which is at home. Paradoxically, it would see a return to the paradigm of work/home/village blending in to one.
I highly recommend Lynda Gratton’s book and her research. What does this mean for us – for parents and educators – as we partner in the education of our girls in these formative years, and as we prepare to witness the graduation of the Class of 2017? When I read over Gratton’s work, what I hear is the imperative of educators and parents to create an environment for learning and growth with the following characteristics: openness and growth; dynamism and change; relationship with others; agility and innovation; creativity and critical thinking; complex systems based thinking and entrepreneurial problem solving thinking.
When we talk about the future of work, much of the focus is on which jobs will disappear and which will remain. These are important factors; however, we need to shift our focus from jobs to skills to prepare young people for the future of work. By understanding the skills and capabilities that will be most portable and in demand in the new economy, young people can work to equip themselves for the future of work more effectively. Our mindset needs to shift to reflect a more dynamic future of work where linear careers will be far less common and young people will need a portfolio of skills and capabilities, including career management skills to navigate the more complex world of work.
More than ever, this makes our Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model relevant and compelling. Through it, we know that learning is far more than a focus on jobs. A multi-disciplinary approach to learning assists students to reflect and develop important skills that can be applied across all learning areas. The evidence of the LNSGM’s contribution to change and achievement across the school and numerous cohorts of students is quite clear – it works.
There will be many rituals and ceremonies to mark Year 12’s graduation from Loreto Normanhurst. These events are important rites of passage which symbolise a movement between one phase of their life into another. With the uncertainty of exactly what that next phase may hold for the Class of 2017, I’m reminded of a note from Mother Gonzaga Barry’s diary on the day when she and her fellow sisters landed in Australia. She made the note that ‘ín our end is our beginning.’
So, my prayer for Year 12 and their families is that they also look at these days as the beginning of a new and unimaginably exciting phase of life, full of wonderful, life-giving moments and endless possibilities.
Ms Marina Ugonotti