Career Ready….for what careers?

contingentworkforceLast summer I wrote about “career ready” and the career paradigms of Generation X and Generation Y/Z. I recently read this prediction from the Intuit 2020 Report (actually published in not so recently in 2010, but still relevant):

Work shifts from Full-time to Free Agent Employment

Imagine a world where contingent work is as common as traditional employment.

The Great Recession will continue accelerating the long-term trend toward a contingent workforce. Contingent workers – freelancers, temps, part-time workers, contractors and other specialists – are hired on a nonpermanent basis and don’t have full-time employment status. Yet these pseudo-employees increasingly work as if they are full-time. What’s missing is a single employer.

By contracting directly with a business or through an agency, these contract workers increase business efficiency, agility and flexibility. They also cost less and turn employment expenses into variable costs. Contractors, or contingent employees, have a greater say in when and how much they work, giving them greater work-life balance. Today, roughly 25-30 percent of the U.S. workforce is contingent, and more than 80 percent of large corporations plan to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce in coming years.


  • The number of contingent employees will increase worldwide. In the U.S. alone, contingent workers will exceed 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.
  • Traditional full-time, full-benefit jobs will be harder to find.
  • Small businesses will develop their own collaborative networks of contingent workers, minimizing fixed labor costs and expanding the available talent pool.
  • Self-employment, personal and micro business numbers will increase.
  • Government will misclassify workers, creating a major issue for companies of all sizes, especially in the first half of the decade. Work classification and work style will emerge as a target of intense political debate

In addition, there is this from the High School Careers Study (2014):

72% of high school students and 64% of college students want to start a business someday. 61% of high school students and 43% of college students would rather be an entrepreneur instead of an employee when they graduate college.

Are we preparing our students for a new world of careers? Does the current K-12 curriculum foster entrepreneurial thinking? As educational leaders, do these statistics surprise us? What would our own students say?

Uncovering this data reminds me of how important it is for educational leaders to have a vision – a vision for our schools as organizations focused on teaching and learning – that considers future trends, especially if we want to claim to prepare kids to be productive citizens and workers. Does the traditional curriculum serve the purpose of preparing our students to navigate a world of contingent employment (current 7th graders will be graduating in 2020)? In some ways it does, with shifts to deeper, more rigorous levels of thinking and problem solving. In other ways our curriculum and expectations fall short, such as in the areas of entrepreneurial thinking and the expert economy. Both the  Intuit 2020 Report and the High School Careers Study (2014) are valuable starting places for educators to begin reshaping this notion of careers.


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