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Equipping Children with the Skills for Tomorrow

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​I’ve always loved Lego – playing with it as a child, and in more recently, with my own children. What I love is how effortlessly it allows you to create, make challenges and get to grips with the basics of physics without any formulas (who can build the biggest tower?) Let’s remember that the Romans built magnificent buildings without a coherent theory of mechanics to understand the physics involved – there is something to be said for empirical (trial and error) testing.

This is why, when I heard about Lego’s new global marketing initiative #rebuildtheworld, it felt like they had hit the nail on the head.

Lego believes it has a role to play in equipping children with the skills they might need in a future job market set to be disrupted by automation.

I applaud Lego for doing their bit. How to inspire the next generation into a career in engineering seems to be an ongoing rhetorical question that just won’t go away. Engineering is about solving problems and thinking creatively so this initiative just makes sense! Indeed, these skills are fundamentally needed beyond the engineering realm, in a number of industries and roles.

The World Economic Forum identified creative problem solving as one of the top skills children will need in a future job market. After attending LCV last week, I was fascinated to hear Doug Wolff, Biz Dev Manager at Epic Games, during a digital engineering panel sessiondescribe how he feels creativity and innovation in the automotive sector is being constrained. 

He believes automotive’s vast array of systems, complexity of manufacturing mixed in with traditional processes, legislation and compliance are constraining creativity and the time it takes to bring a new product to market. He argues that the industry needs a cultural shift, to adopt the speed and agility commonplace in gaming and give automotive engineers the tools and time to create, experiment, see what happens… and to worry about the legislation later. 


Some positive steps have been taken over the past couple of years – including the increase in apprenticeships, Business Enterprise Advisors and implementation of the Gatsby Benchmarks (to define the best careers provision in schools and colleges). But there is still a long way to go.

I recently attended an open day at my son’s primary school. He is seven, a confident boy, head strong, and not a natural fit with the school environment – he likes to do his own thing. He quite often asks why a rule is in place, rather than just accepting and following an instruction – you get the picture.

Parents sat next to their children while they glued pieces of tissue paper to pictures of ice creams and sweets. The teacher came over and asked my son what flavour his ice cream was, he responded strawberry and vanilla. Now he’d used red and blue tissue paper, so the teacher questioned if whether blue=raspberry rather than blue=vanilla. Then he was asked if he was keeping within the lines – which he wasn’t.

While the teacher’s observations were obviously correct, it made me wonder if this rigidity resonated with Doug Wolff’s observation of the automotive industry. Should we keep within the lines, does blue have to mean raspberry? 

The bigger question being, are we encouraging children to problem-solve and be creative in their approach or keep within defined boundaries and rules? Do defined rules encourage creative problem solving?

Are we going to meet Government’s industrial strategy to be innovative world leaders without some fundamental cultural shifts?

Letting go of the old rule book perhaps needs to be the new norm.

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