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PwC Japan holds online ‘Future Career Workshops’ to encourage students to think about the skills they will need for careers and jobs in a digital society ten years from now

2021-02-19

Advances in digitalization are rapidly changing our working styles and the very nature of what it means to work. By the time today’s students join the workforce, we expect that new sorts of work that we cannot yet imagine will exist. In Japan, junior high school students used to engage in learning activities in which they visited workplaces to get hands-on occupational experience. But it has become difficult for all students to get such hands-on experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under these circumstances, the PwC Japan Group, in cooperation with the non-profit organization Code for Everyone, has begun to provide ‘Future Career Workshops’ to public schools. These workshops focus on the jobs that our society will need ten years from now, and encourage students to consider the skills they will need to do such work. As part of PwC’s global program ‘New world. New skills.’, this initiative is designed to allow the next generation of workers to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the digital world, thus acquiring necessary skills.

As the first in a series of such workshops, 84 second-year students at Iwami Junior High School in the town of Iwami, Tottori Prefecture, participated in a program on 7 December 2020.

Students brainstorm ‘future jobs’

First, instructor Kenji Katsura, who leads the technology division of PwC Consulting LLC, used screens set up in classrooms to introduce the acceleration of digitalization, giving the students hints to help them brainstorm future careers. ‘It is very important to have our work be appreciated, and to help others,’ Katsura said. ‘In order to do this, we need to value our friends and colleagues, as well as new people we meet, to be curious and seek out things that we want to do and that we enjoy, and to continue to learn and improve,’ he added in a message of encouragement.

At the workshop, the students were divided into five classrooms according to the type of work they were interested in. These categories were ‘athletes,’ ‘healthcare professionals,’ ‘entertainers,’ ‘teachers and day-care workers’ and ‘retailers and food service professionals.’ Then, they engaged in a brainstorming session with PwC staff, who participated online.

‘Just think of anything that comes to mind—for example, jobs that you wish we had, or jobs that you think would make someone happier,’ said a PwC employee, kicking off the workshop.

The students were grouped into teams of four to five members each. They were asked to brainstorm ‘future jobs’ by combining what they would like to be in the future with recent technologies (such as facial recognition technology, acquisition of locational information by using GPS technology, drone-based photography etc.). Each team wrote their ideas on sticky notes and put them on a large sheet of paper. From among the many ‘future jobs’ that their teams came up with, each student then chose an occupation they would like to do in the future. They shared the reasons for their choice with their team, engaged in question and answer sessions, and added words, illustrations, etc. one after another, thus developing their vision of future occupations on paper.

This was the first time the students had had such an experience, and at first many of them looked nervous. But as the discussions progressed, the atmosphere became increasingly cheerful. The students’ interactions with PwC staff members through an online conference system became increasingly energetic. Two-way communication with PwC staff enabled the students to receive advice that helped them think about their ideas in greater depth, and to review them from different perspectives. They soon got accustomed to this new style of lesson, and adopted a proactive attitude toward learning.

‘Now it makes sense!’ ‘Maybe we can do something like this, can’t we?’ Each team’s sheet of paper soon filled up with sticky notes as the students discussed ideas face-to-face. In the end, every team came up with a colourful and original vision of future jobs.

Combining dream jobs with technology gives students new jobs to be excited about

Finally, all of the classrooms connected with one another online, and the students gave presentations based on the job categories they had selected.

The students’ brainstorming sessions brought forth many ideas for new jobs. These include a ‘makeup counsellor’ who uses a person’s facial expressions and other factors to detect their emotions, and then does their makeup in a way that can cheer up someone who is feeling down; an ‘AI restaurant’ that uses facial recognition technology to remember the faces and favourite dishes of frequent customers; and a ‘civil-service programmer’ who creates systems that keep watch on the safety of children by using drones.

The students who participated in the workshop seemed excited and hopeful about working in a technology-based future. Comments from students included the following: ‘I’m looking forward to the future because the jobs we came up with today might become our actual occupations. I think it’s important to express our own ideas and to make use of future tools.’ ‘I was excited to hear everyone’s ideas and think about the time when that future becomes a reality.’ ‘After thinking about future careers, I’m looking forward to working in the future.’

In our future society, we will need to decide on our own what to do with technology

After the ‘Workshop on Future Jobs’ ended, we spoke with the second-year head teacher, Toshiyuki Matsuoka, about difficulties before the workshop, impressions of the event and the future state of education.

This was the first time we’ve tried a workshop like this, so I was anxious about whether our teachers would be able to handle it and what sort of reaction the students would have. But the children took to it more easily than I expected, reminding me that their abilities are limitless. I was very glad as a teacher to see the children develop their ideas freely, and to see some usually quiet students take the initiative to speak up. Through this workshop, we became aware of new educational possibilities and things that we can do by using technology. This understanding will be a great asset for our school. I think that from now on, technology will be an indispensable element of education. Through this workshop, I realised that it’s important not only to have the capability to use technology but also to think flexibly about what we will do with it.

Ryosuke Sasaki, who leads the ‘New world. New skills.’ program for the PwC Japan Group, describes the program’s significance and objectives as follows.

A lot of people are worried that robots and AI may take our jobs. But rather than thinking in such a pessimistic manner, it is important to have a constructive and positive mindset, and to consider how we can use technology for the greater benefit of people. I want children to have intellectual curiosity, to set challenges for themselves, to build relationships with people with diverse ways of thinking, and to engage in cooperation and co-creation. This will give them a positive outlook and enable them to survive in this new world. In the future, the introduction of AI and robotics will make it less necessary for humans to perform menial tasks. Instead, humans will need to use right-brained thinking to generate ideas, creating something from nothing. Such skills are acquired not by simply accumulating knowledge but through experiences. We hope to continue to provide children with learning opportunities like today’s program, in cooperation with classroom teachers and Code for Everyone.

In collaboration with our clients, educational institutions, local governments and other relevant parties, the PwC Japan Group endeavours to provide essential skills to people in regional communities.

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