Tuesday, 15 May 2018 15:16

How Do We Prepare Students For Future Careers, That Don’t Yet Exist?

Written by Hani Asfour

By Hani Asfour


Imagine a world where you wake up in the morning, and instead of climbing into your car and battling your way through the traffic, you find your office parked in your driveway. You run your meeting as your office self-drives you and your team to your next destination as you brainstorm the smart virtual interface ‘must have’ of the month. Your neighbor on the other hand designs health monitoring clothing, while their partner is Chief Drone Coordinator for a major retailer. This could well be how the next generation will work in the future, undertaking daily jobs that we haven’t even imagined.

It may sound far-fetched, but our design needs are moving so fast that it is difficult to predict what the careers of the future will be. In a recent FastCo Design article; ‘The Most Important Design Jobs of the Future’, design and innovation firm Artefact predicts future design careers will include augmented reality designers, intelligent systems designers and real-time 3D designers.

So, as a high school graduate who is bursting with energy to launch yourself into the workspace, how do you prepare for the unknown? As parents, how do we guide our children? The key is education, and the right sort of education that is tackling real world problems and encourages future thinking. It is clear that relevant education must focus on preparing students with the skills and knowledge to anticipate and adapt to future challenges. This sentiment was also reflected at the recent Qudwa forum in Abu Dhabi, where Dr Andreas Schleicher stressed that the UAE needs to produce creative thinkers—not rote learners—if it is to shift from a consumer to a producer culture.

As educators, we need to be responsible for producing creative thinkers and problem solvers who are ready for a rapidly changing future. So, what’s the right educational path that students should choose? University programs focused on job placement sound like a safe bet, but when we don’t know what the future will hold and new careers are emerging at a rapid pace, we need to prepare the next generation for change not just jobs. At the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) we believe that students develop transferable skill sets that are agile and cross-disciplinary. As designers, we teach visual literacy combined with technological fluency, as we also want our students to be adept at using the latest technologies in modeling, prototyping and fabrication. With design thinking and hands-on learning, we will equip the next generation of change-makers to future-proof their careers.

At DIDI, opening September 2018, students will be offered the opportunity to design their own cross-disciplinary Bachelor of Design degree by combining a choice of two concentrations from a total of four disciplines: Product Design, Multimedia Design, Fashion Design and Strategic Design Management. By initiating a cross-disciplinary program students will be able walk into a variety of careers, some of which are just starting to emerge, such as an information design analyst to interactive fashion designer, app strategist to prototyping expert, or immersive experience visualizer to biological designer.

We also need to inspire our students to be empathetic change-makers who create sustainable solutions to today’s problems. A wonderful example of how creative design thinking has led to a sustainable, yet profitable solution is a biotech start-up Modern Meadow. They are revolutionizing the leather goods industry and have managed to produce ‘biofabricate’ leather without skinning animals: An innovative and ethical solution that meets a growing consumer need.

Whatever the future may hold, preparation is the key, combined with cross-disciplinary knowledge and transferable skills, and a deep caring for our environment. This is our promise and our duty to empower the next generation of designers and innovators.