Outlook: “Future Jobs”

By now, it’s no secret that the rapid advance of technology represents a profound, game-changing force within our society, and the job market is no exception. According to the MIT Technology Review:

“We are witnessing ‘tectonic shifts’ in employment…information technology is reducing the need for certain jobs faster than new ones are created. Nearly half of all jobs are vulnerable to machines—to applications using information technology.”

The Huffington Post adds, “It was predicted that over 43 percent of the jobs that exist today will be gone—forever—over the next 20 years.”

Many of today’s jobs will vanish in a matter of years to be replaced by the jobs of the future in an ever-accelerating race toward the future. The elimination of antiquated jobs and the addition of future technology presents an unprecedented challenge for our nation, as well as some amazing opportunities.

The question is—how do educators prepare students to work in careers that don’t yet exist, and to use technology that has yet to be invented?

21st Century Learning

21st Century learning is one of the hottest buzz words in education in quite some time. Many believe that although the jobs and technological advances cannot be predicted, the skills needed for those “future jobs” will be centered around project-based and design thinking concepts.

The 21st Century Learning concept centers around an environment in which students enter the classroom taking on the role of modern-day workers.  This methodology pushes students past memorization and procedure, instead teaching students to utilize “the four C’s” when completing tasks and projects. These include:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity

Through the use of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) technology, and by adapting the four C’s to solve problems, students gain the necessary skills to better prepare them for the unpredictability of the workplace of tomorrow.

The 21st Century Classroom

What does the 21st Century Classroom look like?

In general, classroom furniture is arranged to increase collaboration. In this more dynamic learning environment, STEM technology is integrated into all subjects, and transparent assessments within a hands-on learning environment are commonplace. Teachers take on the role of facilitators, rather than adjudicators or instructors. They encourage critical thinking in real world situations, teaching students to guide themselves to the answers, rather than rely on memorization and repetition.

However, making this vision of the 21st Century Classroom a reality is not just as simple as rearranging some desks. In fact, many schools will find it necessary to upgrade their classroom technology in order to keep pace with the 21st Century Classroom learning environment.

STEM Grants

Educators may find grants to be essential resources in the mission to increase STEM learning and arm students with the skills they will rely upon in the future. Fortunately, there are a number of such grants available to enable educators to achieve these goals:


Type of Grant: Technology

Eligibility: 6-12th Grade

Amount Awarded: Unspecified

Submission/Deadline: Grant requests of less than $5,000: Any time; Grant requests of more than $5,000: February 1st and August 1st

About: Toshiba America Foundation’s mission is to provide teachers with additional funds to support classroom projects, and strongly encourages projects planned and led by teachers for their own classrooms. Past grantees applied the funds to design projects tapping into the natural curiosity of students, enabling students to frame their own scientific questions, and incorporate the expertise of community partners.

Website: http://www.toshiba.com/taf/612.jsp  

Type of Grant:

Eligibility: K-12 Grade

Amount Awarded: $250-$500

Submission/Deadline: Ongoing

About: The Alternative Fuel Foundation’s primary mission is to offset carbon emissions produced from burning traditional fossil fuels. The foundation is heavily committed to developing and strengthening green education programs, while also helping to promote the use and study of alternative fuels. The foundation provides funds to forward-thinking schools and universities to sponsor projects which promote the concept of sustainability.

Website: http://www.alternativefuelfoundation.org/grant_application.html

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Type of Grant: Energy Saving

Eligibility: K-12 Grade

Amount Awarded: $500 Visa Reward Cards

Submission/Deadline: Ongoing

About: SaveOnEnergy.com® looks for the best lesson plans for teaching students about energy or sustainability. Grantees will create a lesson plan which can help kids learn about energy in order to advance the goal of creating a cleaner, more sustainable society. As such, the lesson plan should encompass energy and/or sustainability knowledge.

Website: https://www.saveonenergy.com/teacher-grant/

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Type of Grant: Student STEM project

Eligibility: High School

Amount Awarded: up to $10,000

Submission/Deadline: Team project October-June

About: The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam initiative offers an unparalleled opportunity for high school students to cultivate their creativity and inventiveness. InvenTeam students rely on inquiry and hands-on problem solving as they integrate lessons from STEM fields to develop new prototypes. Interactive, self-directed learning coupled with STEM curricula are essential for experiencing invention.

Website: http://lemelson.mit.edu/inventeams

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Type of Grant: Chemistry Classroom

Eligibility: High School

Amount Awarded: up to $1,500

Submission/Deadline: February 1st through April 14th each year

About: Since 2008, over 600 high school chemistry teachers received ACS-Hach High School Chemistry Classroom Grants to support ideas that enhance classroom learning, foster student development, and reveal the wonders of chemistry.

Website: https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/funding-and awards/grants/hachhighschool.html

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Type of Grant: Women in STEM

Eligibility: K-12+

Amount Awarded: One-year grant $2,000-$7,000, two-year grant $5,000-$10,000

Submission/Deadline: July 1, 2016-June 30,2017

About: Since the inauguration of the Research and Projects Fund in 1972, AAUW has provided support to hundreds of communities around the United States to advance education and equality for women and girls. Early projects focused on public interest issues, including women’s struggles to balance home and work life, the establishment of women’s resource centers on college campuses, and the emergence of women’s political involvement in the antinuclear movement.

Website: http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/educational-funding-and-awards/community-action-grants/community-action-grant-application/

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Type of Grant: STEM

Eligibility: K-12+

Amount Awarded: Unspecified

Submission/Deadline: Ongoing

About: Lockheed Martin provides generous funding to STEM education outreach activities for students from elementary school through college. Lockheed Martin is committed to supporting programs, events and campaigns that focus on student achievement, teacher development, and gender and ethnic diversity.

Website: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/who-we-are/community/philanthropy.html

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Type of Grant: Math, Science and Reading

Eligibility: K-12

Amount Awarded: $25,000

Submission/Deadline: Ongoing

About: The RGK Foundation offers grants in the broad areas of education, community and health/medicine. The foundation’s primary interests within education include programs that focus on formal K-12 education, particularly mathematics, science and reading.

Website: http://www.rgkfoundation.org/public/guidelines

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Type of Grant: STEM

Eligibility: K-12

Amount Awarded: $20,000-$75,000

Submission/Deadline: Ongoing

About: The American Honda Foundation supports youth education with a specific focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Other areas of specific interest to the foundation include the environment, job training and literacy.

Website: http://www.honda.com/community/applying-for-a-grant

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Type of Grant: STEM

Organization: U.S. Department of Education

Eligibility: K-12

Amount Awarded: Awards Vary

Submission/Deadline: Ongoing

About: In order to share in the President’s commitment to supporting and improving STEM education, The Department of Education offers a number of grants for the specific purpose of advancing learning in STEM-related fields. The organization believes that all students have access to high-quality learning opportunities, and that STEM subjects are a specific national priority.

Website: http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/green-strides/stem.html

The Only Thing Constant in Life is Change

Realizing the promise of the 21st Century Classroom will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. However, grants can be a key element in providing classroom technology to support and enhance the learning environment and share future skills.

The 21 Century workforce will be incredibly different from that of the 20th Century. With new technology comes new ways of conceptualizing our society, from education to employment to leisure time. Preparing students for an evolving future can be a challenge, but a focus on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity mixed with a STEM focus might just be the right mix to give students the necessary competitive edge.