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STEM Education Won’t Cut It. We Must Transform Education to Prepare Students for the ‘Future of Work’
COMMENTARY

March 2, 2022by Erica Collins, President, America’s Entrepreneur Enterprise LLC
STEM Education Won’t Cut It. We Must Transform Education to Prepare Students for the ‘Future of Work’

The COVID-19 pandemic is our greatest test to find solutions to reshape education, accelerate workforce development and reimagine the future of work.

Currently, our education models are based on the technology of the 15th century printing press and Eurocentric ideology instead of the emerging technologies of 2021 — artificial intelligence, intelligent process automation, internet of behaviors, tactile virtual reality, cybersecurity, robotics, quantum computing, human augmentation, blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, 5G and enhanced connectivity. Even as you read this list, these technologies have already become outdated.

To keep up, we must transform our education system and how we prepare our students for the “future of work.”

Instead of focusing on “what” to learn to prepare for the workforce (e.g., coding), educators should help students focus on “how” to learn (e.g., flexibility and creative thinking) for the jobs that have yet to be created.


STEM education has been lauded as a solution but may leave many students behind — either because math and science don’t come naturally or because they haven’t had someone who believes in them push them to realize their full potential.

To really transform our future workforce, we must foster an emotional drive for students to be a part of the ever-changing world of technology. We must capture the attention of learners with real-world applications for deeper understanding.

For example, if most education, work and interactions become digital, how do younger generations develop emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills that are critical for life and their careers?

Emotional intelligence centers around self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills. These are the skills we should be helping our students learn so they’re prepared for the digital future.

Educators must also have an eye towards equity in tech. Technology is not neutral and continuing to teach it as such is a disservice to future generations.


Documentaries like “Coded Bias” alert us to the dangers of racial bias in facial recognition that pose a threat to our civil rights and democracy. Research has also shown that tools for mortgage algorithms show the same level of racial bias as human mortgage brokers.

As a business leader and woman of color, I believe these issues in emerging technologies are of great concern. I’ve watched the evolution of the “information superhighway,” AKA the internet. I’ve worked with major media companies — that were dominated by mostly white, male business leaders — echo a thread of inaccurate historical business, media and technology representation and stories creating a tightly woven quilt that does not embody messages of freedom, equality and democracy.

These are issues that our students should learn about and be given the tools to address so our digital future can be one that is freer and fairer for all.   

Lastly, educators and CEOs alike need to meet their students and employees where they are during these unprecedented times.

Schools are fighting to stay open. Most workplaces are in pandemic chaos, dealing with surging variants, workers’ anxieties about returning to the office and the “great resignation.” Workers and students alike are still haunted by a “Trumptonian attitude,” which led to an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol and championed tribalism.

We can’t be successful — in work or in life — without a human acknowledgment of our physical and mental health recovering from the errors of the last administration.

As we begin to heal and put into place mechanisms to encourage the healing process at schools and in the workplace, it helps to reforge our belief in the importance of progress — lessening the anxiety of an ever-changing world of opportunity through technology.


We should embrace the unknown and not fear it. We should encourage the disruption, not discourage it. Only then can we truly be prepared for the future — of work and life.


Erica Collins is president of America’s Entrepreneur Enterprise L.L.C. in New York, New York. Ms. Collins was recently named to the National Small Business Association Leadership Council. She has worked for several major media companies, including Businessweek, MSNBC, Fox News, HBO and Time Warner/HBO Sports, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Broadcast studio’s “It’s Your Business” and the “Quality Learning Series.” She is executive producer and host of cable, streaming and podcast shows such as “Blog Talk Radio’s Enterprise.” You can find her on Twitter @EnterpriseECAA.

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