Research paints a picture of the future for our young people

Earlier today I was reflecting on getting my school exam results as I listened to the now standard media coverage of exam results day in Scotland – where three anxious teenagers ‘volunteer’ to open their results live on air!

That wouldn’t have worked for me as I used to grab the envelope from the post, run to the bathroom and lock the door allowing me to open the envelope on my own!

But for those receiving their results by text and email this morning, it not just the method of delivery that’s changed. In the Foundation we recently commissioned research to enable us to understand the changes that are, or will, impact on children and young people as they grow up over the next 10-15 years. We can then reflect these changes in the work we develop now and in the future, to empower all young people to achieve their personal best.

A lot of the research is not specific to Scotland but reflects global trends. Those getting their exam results are interested in developing their future through work and/or study so what will that future look like?

In the USA, it is predicted that today’s children will have 10-14 jobs by the time they are 38 years old, most of the jobs available in the future may not currently exist and most of the  technologies involved in future employment and communication are yet to be invented. 

In short, the future will be full of rapidly changes in jobs, skills, knowledge, tools and techniques.

So are we preparing our children for this? 

In Scotland, our uptake of smartphones is faster and we spend more time per day on media and communication than the rest of the UK, with 64% of 10 year olds having their own mobiles.  However there appears to be a disconnect between this rise in computer literacy and young people being prepared for work, with employers reporting that the majority of school and college leavers lack the self-management skills required. 

There is also a knock-on impact of this increased screen time on the level of physical activity and play, with reports of the loss of 12 hours free time per week for outdoor activity and play in the past two decades. This reduces the opportunity for children to develop physical strength, co-ordination and balance and to learn social skills such as negotiation and teamwork.

We can’t, and wouldn’t want, to stop these changes but we have to work with the reality of what is really happening to our children as they grow up and develop ideas and tools that will help prepare them for the rapidly changing world so they don’t just survive but thrive.

We don’t have all the answers but we are determined to develop new and innovative approaches and techniques which optimise the culture around children and young people in Scotland to allow them to flourish. 

If you have any ideas, or are trying to tackle the same issues, I would love to hear your thoughts and I can’t hide in the bathroom on this one.


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