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The future of everyday living
EU2016 arts & design programme

Future Skills

Discussing our Generation's Future Skills with European Decision Makers
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With the official opening and kick-off of the FabCity campus on Monday the 11th of April, the evening concluded with a discussion between students and different EU delegates about the subject, ‘Future Skills & Creative Entrepreneurship’.

As a student looking around the room, I was hesitant to take my place at the table amidst a sea of suits.  I sat down between EU delegates involved in higher education policy from Slovakia and the UK before Jet Bussemaker, the Dutch minister of Education, Culture and Science gave an opening speech.  As a proud new holder of her 3D printed Key to the FabCity Campus, Bussemaker talked about how inspired she was by the innovation and creativity she had witnessed earlier that day before delving into the topic of discussion for the evening: in a rapidly changing world and economy, what skills do students in higher education need to learn?

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© Anke Teunissen

Turning the conversation over to the students in this way represented an attempt to get decision makers to step down from their ivory tower and engage with the people that they are working for.  This was exciting and inspiring, which was further ignited by the words of Farid Tabarki, the moderator of the session, who challenged everyone to think big.  He dared everyone to “let your imagination run wild”.
During two fifteen minute discussion sessions between the delegates and students, many issues and ideas were discussed. These ranged from the importance of multi-disciplinary projects to business skills to adaptability. When prompted by Tabarki, a theme that arose several times was the idea of the importance of survival skills for our generation. Students voiced that they may not be prepared upon graduation with what they have learned in a time that lacks job security and where they are predicted to hold a dozen different careers in their lifetime. Additionally, technology is changing at an exponential rate and this is all happening against the backdrop of environmental and economic uncertainty.  Are students prepared to face this?  Many ideas were generated regarding how education can be changed to better prepare students including more project-based work and skills workshops that connect students with tackling real world challenges.
Amidst the sea of conversation, a musician listened in, witnessing some thoughtfully engaged, others disinterested, while others got heated. He collected what he had heard and created a song on the spot that he accompanied with the piano.  The song and its vulnerability broke through the invisible cultural, language and hierarchical barriers in the room, encouraging a playful atmosphere and bringing a smile to everyone’s faces, inciting receptivity to all of the discussion points that were being summarized.
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When the event came to a close, many of us were left wondering: how are you going to implement this input? While this has yet to be answered, I hope that this discussion manifests itself in the work of the delegates and that the experience left an impression of the importance of connecting with students when contemplating decisions. Overall, I was left with a feeling of the importance of discussions like these, designed to give students a place at the table and the opportunity to connect real life experiences with the people in charge of orchestrating higher education across Europe.  It is high time that we connect decision makers with the people!