How to prepare our students to be professionals in an uncertain future?

Our graduates need various skills to navigate in the future of working life
Two students fly a kite. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
Photo: Aalto University/Aleksi Poutanen

How can we prepare our students to working life in 2070? What kind of knowledge, what skills, which competences will be needed? Paula Schönach, Senior Advisor in Sustainability at the School of Business shared her thoughts about the topic in a panel at the Global Forum, the annual online event of PRME (Principles of Responsible Management Education) held on 18 June 2024. She emphasized that educators at business schools need to be mindful of equipping our students with the necessary skills for a future characterized by change and uncertainty. 

Suggested by AI, 'sustainability consultant' is the most important, number one profession for business students in 2070. ‘I believe AI is wrong here. I don’t think that sustainability should be anymore something to be consulted on, something separate that needs to be added into business thinking. Instead, I’m convinced that in 40 years’ time, sustainability is the core of business and every professional needs to be a sustainability expert. Business is sustainability and sustainability is business. And not only tweaking existing businesses to be less harmful, but to correct the harms that already have been done,’ Paula Schönach says.

People skills can be trained and learnt

Paula Schönach says that we often excel in teaching e.g. analytical skills, but that’s not enough: additionally, our graduates need the ability to cooperate in working life. ‘Where we need continuously to improve is the ways we work, ideate and tackle challenges together, across disciplines and fields of expertise. It is key to harnessing businesses to create and to contribute to sustainability. Interpersonal collaboration, human-human interaction, the soft skills are needed more. These are skills that can and should be trained and learnt.’ 

‘We also need to be able to adapt to the constant change and to be courageous to drive the indispensable change for sustainability, we need imagination for the future. This means that we need to think of the unthinkable, cherish the uncertainty and not to get anxious about that. Uncertainty enables many different futures.’

Would you like to discuss more the futures thinking competencies in business studies? 

If yes, send Paula an email. Thank you!

Paula Schönach

Paula Schönach

Senior Advisor
E706 Dept. Management Studies

Sustainability at the School of Business

In the School of Business, we focus on advancing sustainability through research, in teaching and social influence. In the first phase, information related to sustainability in our teaching has been collected on these Sustainability at the School of Business pages.

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