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Melissa Bradley, Rodney Sampson, and JaNay Queen Nazaire
From left to right: Melissa Bradley, founder and managing director of Project 500, Rodney Sampson, CEO and founder of Opportunity Hub, and JaNay Queen Nazaire, managing director for Performance and Results for Living Cities, collaborate at the 2018 ESHIP Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, July 2018.

Our economic future requires education that prepares students for the future workforce

New teaching methods, new ways to measure learning, and the ‘soft’ skills that come with an entrepreneurial mindset will be valued in a future transformed by technology.

The symbiotic relationship between the future of education and the future of work was an essential topic among attendees at the 2018 ESHIP Summit in Kansas City.

Rodney Sampson, CEO and founder of Opportunity Hub, participated in a discussion around diversity, equity, and inclusion with a group of people who work in the education space during the Summit. He believes it’s important students have an understanding of the skills needed to be successful in the future workforce.

Sampson said Opportunity Hub sponsored four bills that came out of the Georgia Blacks in Technology Policy Conference last October. The bills urge the state to fund software development, entrepreneurs, and artificial intelligence. The bills are based on the need for a serious disruption in our educational system to prepare students for a future workforce transformed by technology – whether that’s K-12 or college. Without this disruption, Sampson believes there’s no way we’ll have the workforce of the future.

“What we’re seeing today, what workers and employers need isn’t being met by the existing system,” said Christopher Cabaldon, mayor of West Sacramento.

Employers need a wide array of skills and competencies, Cabaldon said, and the high school diploma must evolve from the traditional measure of learning to prioritize and indicate new competencies and “soft” skills like grit.

“There are much more efficient ways of transmitting those competencies and signaling them,” he said. “You can imagine in the not-so-distant future, Amazon Prime might bundle access to a certain set of courses that you take, that are offered by the same set of Noble laureates you might get at Harvard. Unlimited amounts of education you might have that are connected to credentials that may or may not be a whole bachelors degree, but are validated and imported directly into your LinkedIn profile.”

Currently in West Sacramento, the West Sacramento Home Run initiative includes universal high-quality preschool, universal college saving accounts for kindergarteners, and a system of digital badges that is intended to create a mechanism for young people to develop and build out their passions to get validated for what they learn and can do. This program also allows access to free community college and guaranteed internships in high school.

For Debbie Kling, mayor of Nampa, Idaho, her community is also thinking of ways to enhance education for the future. “My vision of passion is to bring our K-12 alongside our community college and university that are right there in our community together to create that collaborative environment where you have engineers and pre-engineering students with the university and have them connect as they go through that career path.”

Sparking the curiosity for knowledge in people is the key to solving problems. That’s the basis of entrepreneurship, Sampson said. He believes more immersive programs will provide consistency for students to stick with skills.

“There’s fluidity in everything now, so there’s definitely got to be fluidity in education,” Sampson said.