Education for the Future Workplace: How to Help Young People Navigate the 21st Century

Mike Piercy, Headmaster at The New Beacon School for boys in Sevenoaks, on how to help young people navigate the 21st century and prepare for the future workplace 

“Eighty-five per cent of jobs in 2030 have not yet been invented.”

Two Google clicks and you will find this ‘statistic’ is questionable, theoretical, and has little to do with empirical research. The principle is not without merit, however, for it is thought-provoking.

Those of us who are parents or education professionals (in whatever capacity) already worry about the world into which our children are growing and speculate about their future: education, qualifications, careers, stability, confidence, wellbeing, happiness.

What should we be teaching in schools or, perhaps more germane, ‘how’ should we be teaching – what is the ethos and culture of a school?

The World Economic Forum (proper research!) tells us that education for the future workplace must focus less on knowledge but more on the application of knowledge, decision-making (through learning by experience), problem-solving, adaptability, communication skills and empathy.

At The New Beacon School in Sevenoaks, a boys’ school, we encounter a 21st century emotional test almost daily. Children worry about peer pressure, friendships, isolation, clearing hurdles to get to the next stage of education, exams, and, of course, failure.

Every Head can regale you with stories of online misbehaviour – normally by pupils. Social media has brought us closer in many ways with the immediacy of communication.

It has also torn us apart with faceless, ostensibly anonymous, spontaneous messaging. How many of our children have been upset when ‘aired’ or ‘ghosted’?

The WEF tells us that in 2021 it is likely there will be more people in the world with a mobile phone than those who have access to clean water – a disturbing prospect.

In response to these challenges we decided to make a bold statement by bringing together internationally regarded experts, therapists and trainers in childhood and adolescent mental health for a two day conference on 17 and 18 September 2020.

“Whichever sector of education, we all share the same goal: helping young people to build solid emotional foundations for life and learning”

Pooky Knightsmith speaks of ACE Scores (Adverse Childhood Experiences) – things which can affect us in later life. Recognising stimuli can help navigate the course to strength and recovery from trauma – or, more simply, facing life’s challenges.

Dick Moore, representing the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, tells his audiences that resilience can be taught.

Richard Burnett of Tonbridge School, founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, will highlight self-awareness – the potential to rationalise when faced with challenge. Plus, Mind will be conducting a one day Mental Health First Aid course.

Thanks to Sevenoaks School, which has collaborated with Knole Academy in creating the Sevenoaks Partnership, and with their financial support, we are able to reach out to all schools in the Sevenoaks area.

A member of staff from each of the 30 member schools will be funded to take the Drawing and Talking Foundation Course – one element of the conference programme.

Over two million young people have benefited from this training for education professionals aiming to support young people, ‘who are not reaching their full potential socially or academically’.

Whichever sector of education, we all share the same goal: helping young people to build solid emotional foundations for life and learning.

To return to school ethos, there are those who suggest that good teaching is a greater contributor to academic success than class size. I beg to differ. Good teaching must be a given but small class size brings greater individual attention – one of the keys to unlocking personal development.

Knowing the individual, his/her character, fragilities and strengths, building confidence and resilience, must lie at the core of education.

For further information and to book, see

The New Beacon Brittains Lane, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 2PB; 01732 452131