In this age of the Gig Economy, what will happen to our children? Much of what passes for “work force readiness” is alarmingly backward looking. Pretending that kids in high school today will employed in retail, manufacturing, or transportation seems naïve. Worse, teaching how to be a good “employee” seems to be all the wrong skills for a freelancer.
Assuming that the opportunities of the future are going to be freelance contracts, independent start ups, and coworking synergy, what should we be teaching kids?
With these questions in my head, I was interested to read Jeriann Ireland this week, on “Preparing children for the freelance economy” . Writing in the Freelancers Union blog, she has the perspective of a parent who is a freelance worker.
So what are the important points?
It is interesting that her first point is “boundaries”, i.e., life-work boundaries. This is a critical challenge for freelance workers, but she makes the interesting point that children need to understand the boundaries, too. (Hoping that cats will respect boundaries is beyond reason.) She says that a parent must “set examples of positive boundary setting”, including family-only times (no calls or email).
One side effect of this is that it sets an example of work ethic. Seeing that mom and dad have to spend time, work hard, and meet responsibilities can be an amazing lesson—and one that kids might not see when parents work in an office.
The second point is teaching business skills. (Ick!)
“It’s never a good idea to force your child into anything, but if they show passion for a certain activity, get them thinking about how they could monetize it.”
The third point is educating about finances. Whether connected to work or not, kids need to learn and practice handling money, planning budgets, and ideas about saving, borrowing, and investment. Freelancers have to learn this stuff, and are in a good position to teach by example.
Sensei Jeriann seems to be speaking from experience, and makes sense. Not that I’m seeing any thing “disruptive” or rocket scientific here.
It is kind of a cool to flip the difficult challenges of working at home with kids, and turn that into an opportunity for home schooling by example. I can’t think of anything that is likely to prepare a kid for “the workforce” as much as seeing parents work.
I’ll add another topic that might be worth thinking about: collaboration.
Successful business and freelancing require working with other people, sharing and contributing to the group. Again, work at home parents have an opportunity to show how this works by example. For example, explain that the reason you need to finish this task today, is because your collaborators need it so they can do their thing. And explain that you are working with “Alice” and “Bob”, who are really smart so together you all can be great. And that is why you need to talk on the phone to them today, so we can all be great together. Etc.
Finally, I’m a bit worried about the “business skills” part of the lessons. I’m not saying it isn’t important and useful, but my own view is that once you know the word “monetize”, childhood is over! :-(.
Yes, everyone has to grow up eventually and learn about “monetizing” their time and passion. But I hate to see them grow up too soon!
- Jeriann Ireland, Preparing children for the freelance economy, in Freelancers Union Blog. 2017. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2017/09/01/preparing-children-for-the-freelance-economy/