Cyber, Blockchain, A.I.: Jobs of the Future Hitting Classrooms Today

By Gina Faulk – General Manager, EdGate Correlation Services

Have you heard this one? AI will silently take over a lot of industries until it gets to carpentry…Then suddenly everyone will start coming out of the wood work.

Bad joke aside, we’re all reading the headlines: there will be a projected 58 million new artificial intelligence jobs by 2022. There will be 3.5 unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021. There has been a 517% increase in demand for software engineers with blockchain development skills in the past year alone.

So how are school systems preparing students for the massive changes that will impact future careers? How quickly can quality curriculum be created to properly educate our students for these new roles? And how do teachers slot this curriculum into the day?


Are schools able to keep up?

Technology and career fields are moving at a faster pace than curriculum adoption cycles. As an example, there is a tremendous employment gap in cybersecurity, but a survey of students said that around 70% of them said that “no high-school teacher or career counselor had ever mentioned the idea of a cybersecurity career.” Additionally, a report entitled Credentials Matter indicates that “many [high school career] programs have little currency with today’s employers and are of questionable career value to students.”

The challenges are vast and span the entire education system from K-12 to Higher Ed and beyond. It will take a concerted effort from teachers, administrators, publishers, and even employers to help address gaps and prepare the next generation for the changes ahead. Schools have limited bandwidth to create courses and lesson plans to address these topics.

North Dakota is a shining example of a state aggressively preparing their workforce for careers in cyber.  EduTech, the education arm of North Dakota’s statewide technology agency has been working closely with the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Institute (NICERC), a federally funded organization, to create a comprehensive cybersecurity program and long-term STEM plan for the state. Chuck Gardner, Director of Curriculum, described how NICERC helped to create the cyber frameworks and standards that were integrated into North Dakota’s computer science standards. Gardner explained how states may choose to integrate the cyber standards into subjects outside of computer science, such as science, career and technical education (CTE), or even world languages.  The subject area that the standards are integrated into may ultimately depend on the student’s grade level or the state’s economy.

“School schedules are so jam-packed with offerings that students need to take that there is less and less room for ‘cool’ electives like cyber engineering or coding,” said Gardner. “By incorporating the cyber and robotics portion into a physics or mathematics course, we can piggy-back the required learning with robotics and cyber conversations and applications of the core content in a real-world and tactile or hands-on setting.”

NICERC currently has strategic partnerships with twenty five states, seeding activities across the country with the option for states to implement the NICERC cyber curriculum resources and professional development. The organization has created a national network of more than 17,000 educators who are accessing their free library of K-12 content that runs the gamut from elementary STEAM and Computational Thinking and middle school STEM and Cyber Fundamentals, to high school robotics, cyber society, computer science, and cybersecurity.

Making room for next generation curriculum

Companies like Pointful Education are also contributing to this burgeoning area by publishing curriculum focused on emerging technologies and future-focused careers.  Pointful Education’s growing catalog currently includes twenty courses, with titles such as Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Introduction to Blockchain Technology, Flying Cars and the Future of Transportation, and Drones Certification. The courses feature content on career possibilities and educational pathways to give students further direction to pursue their passions. 

 “Blazing a new trail is always challenging.  Many of Pointful Education’s course titles aren’t on outdated course code lists. However, Pointful has been able to create new course codes where applicable. And finding alignment to existing standards has been critical to getting courses in front of students across all fifty states and into international markets,” said Steve Southwick, CEO of Pointful Education. Southwick stressed that having standard correlations allows teachers to see clear links to Next Generation Science, CTE, and ELA, for example. 

Gardner echoed this sentiment: “Unfortunately, we have a saying in our office: ‘If you know how one state department of education works, congratulations, you know how one state department of education works.’ In our experience, there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach to standards and content adoption. However, standards alignment is an integral component for adoption and implementation by teachers.” 

Jobs aplenty

When you think about it, every retailer will need to prepare for cyberattacks and have a secure means to take payment, from the most sophisticated online retailer to the mom and pop corner store. We now take for granted that we can order digital objects online (hello blockchain!), talk to Siri (A.I.), or do our banking online (cyber). So ensuring that students are aware of these growth area skills can’t be stressed enough.

With many career paths projecting salaries in the six figures, the future looks bright for those students willing to delve into a future-focused career. If students need more convincing, they need only look at the median salary and prospective job growth for various cyber jobs, courtesy of NICERC:  Cyber Career Profiles.  Sold!

Gina Faulk is the GM at EdGate Correlation Services, the leading company to offer content mapping to global educational performance standards and scalable methods to prepare educational content for the classroom.  Gina has over 20 years of experience in publishing, previously working for and Macmillan Publishing Solutions (MPS).  As the GM at EdGate she focuses on business development and offering the highest level of technology and customer service to EdGate’s 250+ clients.