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Preparing to fly into the unknown: skills for mercurial careers

Our recent Aspire evening was a sell out event, packed with students from years 10 to 13 and their parents. It wasn’t really surprising, as the topic was “The changing face of 21st century careers and higher education”. We had some outstanding experts on hand to offer advice and personal experience to help our students make choices as they prepare for life beyond school. Our parent body is a very proactive and forward-looking group of people who know that the world of study and work has changed immeasurably since they were in their daughters’ position. They are eager to find out as much as possible to support their daughters as they forge their own paths. I am encouraged that parents do not simply expect their daughters to do exactly what they themselves did, but are open to the many exciting options and opportunities that exist in our changing employment and education environment.

The evening reaffirmed something that has been growing steadily in the collective consciousness of educators: that students are looking for a different and more flexible type of degree experience that is more closely aligned to their career ambitions, incorporating internships, apprenticeships and industry placements. We are very fortunate that with the University of Reading and specifically Henley Business School on our doorstep we are able to encourage our girls to explore their futures with the broadest of ideas.

I was also fascinated to see the data that suggests that 30% of present professional roles will have disappeared from the job landscape within the next 10 years. For my generation this can seem like a very unsettling prospect, but as we listened to alumna Ruth Baughan explain how she is working very successfully in a field that simply didn’t exist when she was at school, the enormous number of new opportunities that our fast-paced world offers becomes a very exciting prospect for our students.

All of this serves to remind me how important it is that we focus on giving our girls a skillset which will allow them to adapt and change to these circumstances. Open-mindedness and a willingness to continue learning throughout life are becoming key differentiators for successful employees and leaders. We are very much concerned with what I see as our ‘best self’ at The Abbey. This means understanding both the things which are a strength and the things that we need to work on. I do not believe anybody is perfect but do believe that nothing is impossible. I find some aspects of the future job market very exciting and especially for our girls, whom we are encouraging to be limitless in outlook. Alongside this open-minded approach is the enthusiasm with which our students embrace challenges such as the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, Young Enterprise and, in the Junior School, the BizSchool project which is just getting under way. With all this combined you can see how our girls will be excited by the opportunity to be both entrepreneurial and resilient when it comes to navigating careers where the only constant will be change.