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Our nation’s workforce continues to evolve in its ideas, products, processes and services while at the same time being affected by naturally occurring demographic shifts. Our aging Baby Boomer generation is being replaced by Millennials and, eventually, Generation Z. These changes have, and will continue to, result in a more competitive economy that affects the substance and conditions of the work we will do across any occupation, the participation of underserved groups in the economy, and the ways classrooms prepare students to join the workforce.

Today’s work more often involves creativity, critical thinking and personability. As technology advances, the learning must advance with it. Here are five ways to help prepare today’s kids for tomorrow’s workforce.

1. Build Character

The future workforce will require exceptional employees. As a generation that is constantly connected due to the use of social media and the internet from a young age, they must know that reputations can be destroyed by one accidental error. Integrity, compassion and a solid work ethic should be heavily ingrained.

2. Give Them the Tools to Connect

Recruiters already have their eye on Generation Z candidates. In order for them to stand out, we must teach our kids to build responsible and valuable relationships. The internet (that they know and love so well) can provide them with a powerful voice when they may not know anyone other than their peers. They can begin building, or contributing to, an online network for future leadership that both prepares them for the workforce and helps them network well before their time.

3. Show Them That Their Actions Matter

In a world where young people can feel insignificant, it’s important to teach them that their actions do have a significant impact, whether positive or negative.

Companies have and will continue to implement additional responsibility when it comes to sustainable environmental practices. Teach kids now about caring for the planet and show them that their ideas and actions make a difference.

4. Teach Them How to Use Resources

With the internet overflowing with information from so many different sources, we must teach kids how to proactively search for the data they need while making connections and drawing educated conclusions. Homework can evolve to support this.

In the future, employees will not be “trained,” rather taught how to think and use the resources available to them. Work on building these competencies ahead of time.

5. Teach Them How to Focus

If you thought millennials were easily distracted, flipping between texts and all of their social media platforms, just wait until Generation Z comes into the workforce. This young generation has lived in a connected world since they were born, and they’re used to constant updates coming from dozens of apps simultaneously.

Although switching between different tasks and paying attention to a wide range of stimuli comes naturally to them, make sure they also learn how to prioritize, focus, pause, and build deep and connected relationships.

What Will the Evolving Workplace Require?

The evolving workplace will require four areas of expertise:

  • A deep knowledge of the work being performed, whether in the arts, media, manufacturing, trades, sales, marketing, accounting, healthcare, or science.
  • An understanding of updated technology, ranging from email and team communication software to imaging, database management, health informatics, coding, cybersecurity, or systems engineering.
  • An ability to engage in critical thinking, problem solving and creativity while being able to collaborate with different teams.
  • People skills, including interpersonal communication and emotional intelligence.

The future begins today. Our kids must be prepared to adapt to a workforce full of unknowns. By teaching them to ask questions, think critically, and collaborate with others, they can tackle whatever is thrown their way.