Report: The age of automation demands students learn soft skills


Automation is expected to replace millions of existing jobs by the time the next generation has joined the workforce, making soft skills more important than ever before. Among these soft skills, creative problem solving will be of especially high value, according to Adobe and the educators and policymakers recently surveyed by the software company.

Adobe asked 1,600 secondary and post-secondary educators and 400 policymakers and influencers from the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan about creative problem-solving skills — including about how critical they are and whether today’s students possess them. An overwhelming 97 percent of respondents said such skills are important in the classroom.

Adobe defines creative problem solving as the process of redefining problems and opportunities; coming up with new, innovative responses and solutions; and then taking action. The company believes that “tomorrow’s jobs will demand these skills.”

Adobe Education Programs Global Lead Tacy Trowbridge has worked on a number of research projects focused on creativity in education. She said in an interview that Adobe is focusing on creative problem solving and essential skills students will need in 2020 and beyond.

“I have a 6-year-old son, and I try to imagine what his future looks like — how he will travel, how he will play, what jobs he will have during his lifetime,” Trowbridge said.

Educators and policymakers agreed that creative problem-solving skills are not being nurtured in schools today. Respondents said the lack of time to create was the main hurdle in teaching creative problem-solving, but that limited access to the necessary software and technology in the classroom and at home was another major hurdle.

“While it’s certainly possible to teach some of these skills that don’t include technology, it wouldn’t be wise for students who are entering a world where technology is so critically important,” Trowbridge told EdScoop.

School budget restraints also prevent educators from accessing the knowledge to teach creative problem solving, according to 55 percent of respondents.

Despite the lack of resources at many institutions, some are developing work-arounds. Todd Taylor, director of the writing program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, built a curriculum to help all incoming students develop a baseline understanding of digital literacy. He requires his students to not just write essays, but to communicate their ideas through videos, images, websites and social engagement.