Associate feature: preparing for future jobs

Written by Martyn Ware on 6 November 2017 in Comment

Martyn Ware of the SQA looks at the jobs that don't exist yet

Students - SQA

How do we assess the knowledge and skills needed for jobs and industries that haven’t been created yet?  How do we prove that someone is resilient and able to adapt to change? How can learners demonstrate and capture evidence of these and other qualities and represent them in a way that gives them currency?

Over the past few months I’ve been leading work for the Scottish Qualifications Authority looking at these and related questions. And if we can answer them, we will be able to help prepare people across Scotland and further afield to meet the challenges that lie ahead of them in a world in which change is the only constant.

To inform this work I have met with a wide range of groups and individuals including delegates at our TEDx Glasgow workshop, our Assessment Expert Group, Young Scot’s Assessment Futures Vision Panel, the Google for Education Study Tour and at the Association of Test Publishers Europe (E-ATP) Conference.

Everywhere, I have encountered a widespread belief that the nature and pace of change in the workplace and the world around us is such that we urgently need to find new ways to capture, assess and recognise the new expectations of learners that flow from these changes. 

Just as the industries we work with are having to develop and implement new ways of working to reflect the pace of change, SQA needs to ensure that our qualifications and assessments truly reflect the new skills, knowledge and qualities needed by employers and employees, and encourage in learners an appetite for continuous re-skilling and up-skilling throughout their careers.

Across a number of sectors, we’re seeing an increasingly diverse range of models for developing new skills, supported by qualifications. Our best home grown example is CodeClan which offers career-changers the opportunity to undertake an intensive 16-week programme leading to SQA Professional Development Awards in Software Development.

If the World Economic Forum is right in its predictions, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will continue to see us all needing to re-skill and up-skill far more frequently than we have had to in the past.

Although innovative approaches and more traditional delivery models will continue to co-exist, it is likely that more industries will need to adopt new approaches to training and developing their staff to ensure they remain competitive.

Turning specifically to assessment, technology can help us to assess the things we already assess in new ways. It can also help us to assess things that we increasingly value but have not previously been able to assess in a valid and reliable way.

The pace of change in jobs means that employers do and will increasingly value these skills of learning to learn, resilience, adaptability, collaboration, problem solving alongside role-specific skills and knowledge.

And if assessment is fundamentally about the generation of data from which inferences can be drawn about an individual’s capabilities, the ‘data exhaust’ which each of us generates in our daily interactions with technology offers some intriguing possibilities.

There are and must be constraints on what is practicable, desirable, legal and ethical in this respect, but to quote a leading industry figure, ‘We need to debate the constructive and responsible use of digital technologies for assessment’. A key part of SQA’s Assessment Futures work is to engage with this debate.

So our challenge is to ensure our future qualifications and assessments align closely to new industries and others that are changing ever more quickly, reflect the skills knowledge and qualities that employers and employees need, allow for highly flexible delivery methods, make effective use of new and emerging technologies and provide learners with representations of their capabilities which are recognised as having currency and credibility.

Pretty straightforward then!


Martyn Ware is head of Assessment Futures at the SQA. Find out more



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