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What do future employers want from today’s students?

Professionals from various industries tell IB World magazine what skills they are looking for from the next generation

Read any article about the future workplace, and predictions around artificial intelligence and automation are most likely.

What is harder to determine is how today’s younger generation can prepare for jobs that possibly haven’t been created yet. Robots aside, what skills will future employees need to thrive in the workplace, and how can teachers help? Companies from various industries explain what they are looking for from future recruits

Schools need better, stronger and more regular connections with employers,” says Terence Perrin, head of recruitment, Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA) at BNP Paribas, a financial services company

“An international mindset is key for any organization operating in multiple territories. Digital solutions are breaking down geographical barriers and clients are looking to partner with organizations that can adapt successfully to different working cultures and environments.

“The ability to build effective, trusting relationships is essential in this context. Being able to communicate in more than one language is a vital tool to achieving this. It’s no coincidence that the graduates we hire, almost without exception, speak at least two languages to a fluent standard.

“Schools need better, stronger and more regular connections with employers to get these messages across – something as simple as open-evenings for students and their parents are a useful way to start the conversation.

“Some schools host talks from alumni to explain what their job really means on a day-to-day basis. A job description can be ‘brought to life’ by somebody who is actually doing the job. For example, when a job description states: ‘Must have high levels of resilience’, what does that actually mean, and what does it look like? A first-hand description of the reality of such a statement is incredibly helpful to those looking for careers guidance.”

More focus is needed on teaching soft skills,” says Anthony Bruce, partner in PwC’s UK Human Resource Consulting practice. PwC is a professional services firm

“It would be obvious and true to say that we will continue to look for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills.

“However, the critical skills we’ll need in the future are ones that technology can’t replace or supplement. Attributes like empathy, creativity, and skills that have often been described as ‘soft’, will become harder to replicate in technology, and will therefore become more of premium as we look at attracting the very best talent into the organization.

“There’s an appetite in our organization to bring in people from diverse backgrounds, who can be creative, think laterally, with courage, confidence and a challenging manner, and build good professional relationships, rather than just demonstrate technical excellence.

“The world of business is, of course, one which requires working with people, relating to people, and STEM is also an important set of capabilities, but we’re trying to entwine them with diversity too. It’s this combination, alongside creating an environment where employees can thrive and be successful, that will be most important in the future.”

“I imagine more could be done in school and university systems to create places where people can learn to work in teams and understand the dynamics of workplaces, so there could be more focus on teaching those skills alongside STEM subjects.”

“Introduce computer science skills to students early in their education,” says Sherry Almasi, HR and recruiting manager at Tumblr, a social networking platform

Tumblr will be looking for candidates with engineering and coding skills experience. Specifically, a deep-rooted knowledge of several coding languages will be highly desirable in the not-so-distant-future.

“We are increasingly looking for our future employees to have experience working with large sets of data. Coding and data skills allow us to innovate effectively and often – to remain competitive these skills will continue to be integral for us.

“Teachers can begin introducing computer science skills to students at an early stage in their education to ensure they have a baseline understanding of coding languages. Data analysis is another skill teachers can begin acquainting students with, as we are seeing analytics become more integral in every facet of business.”