A GPS for tomorrow FOCUS ON THE FUTURE WITH JAKE HORNE OF THE STUDENT COMPASS by Robert DiGioia (CT Magazine)
Robocar traffic controller. Augmented reality architect. Classroom avatar manager. Job titles you might not find on LinkedIn today, but Jake Horne says look for them in the not-too-distant future. Mr. Horne, co-founder and president of the mentoring and career guidance service The Student Compass, located in Litchfield, has spent a lifetime shepherding students of all ages. Through mentoring, gap year experiences and future planning, he has supported students to achieve fulfilling studies and careers. He invited Connecticut Magazine to peer into his crystal ball while tackling some of life’s bigger questions.
PRESIDENT, LITCHFIELD COUNTY UNIVERSITY CLUB, INTERPOINTS PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE STUDENT COMPASS JAKE HORNE
You start. For three solid years, I’ve been gleaning research on a variety of topics that are beginning to seriously impact the next generation and beyond. I’ve got three grandchildren...what will they be looking at in 50 years? I can’t say for sure but I do know this: Nothing will be the same. There is no going back to some past golden age. Profound global transformations are being felt around the world and right here in Connecticut: exponential technological innovation, inevitable climate change, and comprehensive globalization of markets combined with incredibly fast-paced human and machine interactions and transactions.
How to prepare? It’s not about “hard skills” anymore...it’s the soft skills that can stretch across disciplinary silos to be able to flexibly adapt and manage change. With my clients I stress vigilance...a constant re-skilling, taking it upon ourselves and anticipating what the new critical skills are going to be and how to gain them. Like being creative, thinking critically and being participatory. And helping communities find commonality in terms of shared vision. These are not 19th or 20th-century mandates; these are 21st-century essentials.
Old school, new school First off, lower, middle, high school and college tiers are all disconnected. Transitioning from one to the next is like being thrown off a cliff. Learning is a process that should be scaffolded and de-siloed throughout one’s schooling. Learning through doing, experientially, matches the way we all learn most effectively. I loved my high school chemistry classes, because I got to put things together and blow things up...ah, I really get it now!
Sadly, our addiction to standardized testing, the SATs/ACT, and colleges admissions criteria has left students with little practice at applying their knowledge. The accepted mantra has been memorization by rote; just fill the “vessel” with factoids. The problem is that ideas without application are simply abstractions; the human brain needs context. And so when students step out into the real world, they have little practice with real-world problem solving. No one’s got it right yet as far as building out a K-16 curriculum.
What will drive change will be competition between educational options i.e., MOOCs, online courses, charter schools. This will be felt particularly by independent private schools, dependent on tuition-paying families. Why spend $60,000 per year if there are other much less expensive options... There’s a 10-15 year lag between the pace of technology, which is morphing at an exponential rate every two years, and what’s taught at universities. Look at the rapid change in tech and innovation. Since 2007, there have been at least
20 technologies that have changed the world... iPhone,Facebook,Twitter,thecloud,sharedopen platforms, YouTube, Watson, Kindle, Netflix. Half the world is connected now, facilitating bodies of knowledge, trade, and global transactions.
May the workforce be with you Humans have a strong tendency to gather and associate; there’s always a leader and a team comprising a dynamic group. Employers want gig (global) teams. And they’re soliciting the best and brightest around the world. The internet makes it easy to aggregate talent. And it blurs boundaries, socio-economic and sovereign.
Companies increasingly will be looking for a particular set of skills that have to do with critical thinking...creativity, fluid idea development, adaptability, resilience, leadership, empathy... the capacity to collaborate, to work in teams, to present ideas cogently...project development... this is the kind of stuff that isn’t happening in schools.
Transmittable skills will be required across career sectors, like communications. The wide world is project-based. So you want to be a programmer. You acquire the “hard skill” (how to code). But you also need to understand the logic behind it, how to analyze data, the best ways to implement and the ramifications of those actions.
Ideal age to start these conversations? Gotta start early; young minds are plastic and trainable. 14-24. I work with my clients for at least two to three years, sometimes six to seven. I help evaluate which habits and behaviors are valuable, through tests like Myers-Briggs. And ultimately, successful students and humans will recognize that they need to be motivated, to be their own self-agents. Self-awareness, gap year experiences, peer-to-peer collaboration; life-long learning... This is what personal success will be founded on. And I don’t work with HR teams or guidance counselors. I work with kids to strategize. I do get calls from parents, lamenting that their college grad is now living in the basement. Sometimes they need more counseling than their kids. Snowplow parents stifle success! Let your kids take the hits...they’ll be ok.
Final forecasts? You want to be a mechanic? Cars will be self- driving. Machines can produce goods, but they need direction. Algorithms can kick out five potential solutions, but humans make the final decisions. With AI and big data systems, one anesthesiologist will be able to monitor five operating theaters; fewer anesthesiologists needed. No career is immune to change and all need to adapt. Climate change will require all the agility and capacity of human creativity to mitigate. The eastern seaboard will be underwater eventually and cities will disappear. This means population migration. Ironically, more people are moving into cities for technological opportunity and career synergies; migration again. Obviously, learning how to manage migration will be an imperative. Sustainable engineering will become a new discipline...addressing climate change, energy consumption, human habitat, distresses. Who will build rooftop gardens, breathing buildings, shelters from dramatic climate swings? So much change, so much to learn in new ways, so much opportunity for those who are practiced.
I’m doing my part to foster a balanced society... personal, creative, innovative, dynamic energy. Within the next 100 years, let’s all contribute to shaping a place for humans to provide leadership, direction and ethical frameworks in which these new innovations flourish, in the best interest of the greater good. To paraphrase E.O. Wilson, it’s all about consilience...everything is connected to everything else.