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Four soft skills for the workplace of the future: critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. 


Technology is developing at a rapid rate. 20 years ago, could you have imagined that you would be able to ask your phone what the weather will be like? Or translate any language, with just the tap of a button? The reality is, probably not. All we do know for certain is the statement mentioned above, the world is changing at breakneck speed, and this is all being driven by technology. 


For us to best equip the children of today for this world of tomorrow, we need to have a thorough rethink of what we are teaching them.


The coming decades will see dramatic change: we could, for the first time in history, be living in a world where there are more people than jobs. This is all due to a process known as: automation. 


Automation, replacing humans with machines in a production process, has been around since the dawn of man. In the past few centuries alone, machines have uprooted humans from muscle work, and with great benefit too: the vast majority of us no longer toil in the fields or face the fire of a furnace in a sweltering factory.


Every new tool invented by humans has replaced some form of labour. But this time things are different: machines are now taking on cognitive jobs – those that rely on thinking skills. It is now a case of human brainpower, not manpower, being replaced.


If this seems like a distant problem barely registering on the horizon, then take a look at the news. Since the turn of the year three of the biggest retailers in the UK: Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have all made significant numbers of staff redundant, most to be replaced by automated checkouts.


The McKinsey Global Institute found in a recent study that over 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide by 2030: this is one fifth of total employment.The Centre for Cities estimates that the UK alone could see up to 3.6 million jobs go in the same time-frame. Many more people will be forced to retrain as machines carve out an ever-increasing role in the economy.


Higher-level: The new technologies of the future economy will increasingly demand higher-level thinking skills from workers that that cannot be so easily replicated by machines. The kind of soft skills that you can transfer from one career to another as more sectors of the economy become automated. 


In response to this demand, successful education systems of the future may rest upon the teaching of the ‘so called’ 4Cs, alongside traditional core skills.


The 4Cs are critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication.


Critical thinking

This encourages learners to solve problems, and importantly, to question. 

This skill could prove crucial for children as they navigate a world that is full with misinformation and fake news. Teaching this skill also means not giving children information, rather showing them how to find it for themselves.



Teaching creativity would see children looking at problems from different perspectives and finding solutions in ways that are unique to them. People that can use their creative skills to their benefit will find great opportunity in the coming years. In 1997, grand-master Gary Kasparov was beaten at chess by a computer. But nowadays, human-computer teams

often beat powerful computers at the game, by using technology in novel ways. In the future creativity could be our greatest asset.



Teaching collaboration means giving developing children’s skills in working with others towards a common goal, being able to give an opinion on a problem, but also recognising that sometimes your opinions have to change in response to other people’s thoughts. We share many common challenges in the world, climate change, and plastic pollution and so on. In the 21 st Century, we will need young people imbued with a sense of collaboration and the skills with to work together, to tackle such problems.



Teaching children communication will focus on developing children’s skills in conveying their ideas. It means carefully considering what we are saying, especially when we are using text-based communication such as email, tweeting and texting. These types of communication lack tone, so meanings can often be misconstrued.

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