A new report by Regional Australia Institute and NBN calls for the formal integration of soft skills development into future education strategies, expanding the current narrow focus on STEM.

The report calls for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to be expanded to STEAMED – which captures those disciplines as well as entrepreneurship, art and design.

“The future of work offers a heady mixture of excitement and promise as new ways of working become embedded in the economy, along with the worry of how and if each of us can make our way in a rapidly changing work landscape,” the report’s authors said.

“To give our kids the best chance of success in the future job market, we need to give them the best chance to develop the technical and personal skills they need to succeed.”

Rather than it being about creating skills that will help the next generation of workers to stay ahead of technology that threatens to take traditional jobs, the authors believed it was necessary to develop a mix of skills that provide an “opportunity to race ahead with technology”.

This is similar to the current push around augmented intelligence – reframing the discussion around opportunities for technology to enhance ways of working, rather than to displace workers from entire industries.

The idea of the importance of non-digital skills in a digital age isn’t a new one. What could be new, however, is if there was to be a formal adoption of STEAMED or similar in educating the next generation of workers.

According to the report, parents and educators “have complimentary roles in the development of the right dynamic of skills”.

“School is not the exclusive domain of learning,” the report’s authors said.

“In general, children of parents who are engaged and knowledgeable about their child’s education achieve higher scores, engage in more challenging academic programs and have broader behaviour and social skills.”

The authors said the report is intended to serve as a call to action to put soft skills on the digital learning roadmap.

“To ensure the success of today’s pre-schoolers in the 2030 job market, we need to invest in our kids now,” the authors said.

“Do they have the right mix of hard and soft skills to help them be both digitally literate and able to communicate with people?”

To assist, Regional Institute Australia and NBN created an online toolkit to help parents and educators get kids started on the development of requisite skills.