The Future Out There: Transitioning from education to work

Although COVID-19 has drastically changed the learning experience, it should be seen as an opportunity to improve education systems around the world. How can we support students transitioning from school to the workforce during this monumental moment? Banner image: Shutterstock/Sara Carpenter

Like Comment

This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — discuss and develop solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

Join the Forum Network for free using your email or social media accounts to share your own stories, ideas and expertise in the comments.

I’m not saying that we should celebrate the pandemic, but in these times of uncertainty we must look at all the positive outcomes. One of those is the chance to review and renew our education system.

I feel fortunate to live in Denmark where our education system is one of the highest-ranked in the world, and where I have access to free education. But even Denmark has room for improvement. I think we should take the pandemic as an opportunity to improve education systems around the world.

When COVID hit, I realised just how unsure I was of the future. I knew virtually nothing of the world outside my small town, and after six months of isolation I couldn’t see much future out there.

Luckily, vaccines and months of social distancing have made it possible for us to be out and about once again. And even though COVID is in the past for most people in Denmark, it has emphasised the uncertainty of the future of work. How am I supposed to enter a workplace if I don’t know anything about the reality of working life? I don’t know what to expect from my future workplace and I don’t know what they will expect of me.

When we choose a profession, we choose a part of our identity. A lot of our self-understanding can be found in our choice of career.

Therefore, I find it important that both educators as well as employers are working to create a work environment that emphasises equality and safety. A work environment where age and experience aren’t the most important factors. As recent graduates, we should be judged by our commitment and skills—even those we have learnt by ourselves during COVID. We have had the opportunity to use websites like Masterclass to learn new skills that we can use in our professions, and even though online teaching has pressured us more than we could imagine, it has also taught us new ways of learning. Our generation is shaping the future and to exclude those skills completely would be a mistake.

Read more on the Forum Network: Micro-credentials: The new frontier of adult education and training by James Robson, Deputy Director of Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance, Oxford University

What a world we would live in if our education system taught us what to expect from a workplace environment. If we go out into the world of work unprepared, we won’t be given any responsibility because the more experienced employees will think we are unable to perform tasks that we have been schooled about for years.

Because of COVID, it’s even more important to create a safety net for us. Many people have lost their jobs, their base, and entire professions have been demolished due to the COVID crisis. The world is already chaotic and scary for a young person whose life is about to be turned upside down. Not only are we going to start a new life at work; personally, we are about to go through an amazing transition into adulthood, and in just a few years our lives will change forever. I don’t see why work couldn’t be a place where we can feel safe and are allowed to be ourselves.

If schools just let us go out in the world without any reassurance or practical experience, they are making sure that we will be disadvantaged once we enter a new workplace. Policy makers, educators and schools have a responsibility to their students to make sure that we are fully prepared when we go out into the world of work. We, the students, have a responsibility as well, but if one of us fails it will be the same result. We won’t be given any responsibilities because we’re not prepared. It will create a gap in our generation. We won’t be as represented in the group of future leaders as with other generations.

So, I ask of all employers out there to base your judgements on more than just our education. And I ask of all employers and educators to work towards making the transition from education to work less intimidating for recent graduates. And lastly, I ask of our future education system to please teach us about the real world of work. We have all been through a lot these last years. You owe us that much.

Read the OECD Policy Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Young people’s concerns during COVID-19: Results from risks that matter 2020

Read the OECD Policy Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Young people’s concerns during COVID-19: Results from risks that matter 2020

Find out more about the OECD Youth projects I Am the Future of Work – Now What?! and Youthwise

Related Topics

Tackling COVID-19 Intergenerational Solidarity Future of Education & Skills Future of Work

Anna Jeppesen

Member, Youthwise, OECD

My name is Anna Jeppesen, and I’m a member of OECD Youthwise. I am 21 years old, and I live in Denmark where I work as pedagogical assistant until I start my education as a pedagogue. I’m Chairman of Assens Youth Council and I’m also Vice chairman of the Network of Youth Councils in Denmark. I have always believed that young people should have a say in important matters, since we are the ones who are going to take over the world that is left behind for us. By volunteering, I feel as if my voice is finally heard.


Go to the profile of Jacques Drolet
3 months ago

Dear Anna,

thank you very much for your thoughts and wish and expectations. There are well on track. May I bring something that in my experience is critical for academics coming out of higher education institutions. We come out with knowledge and a limited degree of experience with is well counterbalanced by creativity and passion. What we are not prepared to deal with is corruption. We get a job, a salary and a level of security that takes our breath away (although we do not say it :-) Then bit by bit we are asked to do things that are not really ethical. Nothing illegal at first, just border line ethical. Then the salary and position goes up and we are asked more and more to do things that are down right unethical, if not illegal. This downward spiral is difficult to stop as it often involves the well-being of family and friends. I have been in high government positions and industry, and this is the case everywhere for everybody I know close enough that is willing to discuss openly. Based on having done it, what is needed is a training on how to act and live ethically without loosing your job (and in certain countries, your life). In fact, the implementation of this can become the basis of a different type of success, one healthier. To count on the magnanimity of your boss is not real nor when you think about it, responsible. Therefore, from where I stand, when it comes to the transition tool from the educational to work period (acknowledging that learning is a life's task), I put training in taking ethical decisions upfront as one of the most needed training if we are to fulfill the SDGs, which are by the way, the only way we are going to make it as a species, at least the one we like to call humane humanity.

Go to the profile of Danilo Rodríguez
2 months ago

Muy de acuerdo con las intenciones de la organización de educación intergeneracional y infancia y vejez