Creativity = future job security

Yong Zhao

With his Chinese upbringing and undergraduate study and American postgraduate experience, University of Oregon professor Yong Zhao brings a genuine international perspective to education. He's also a very entertaining speaker.

He began his EduTECH keynote with a challenging statistic: 53% of recent American graduates can't get a job in their chosen field. "Giving us the the best qualified generation of bartenders ever." Yet there's a widely reported "global talent shortage". So what's going on?

Zhao believes we're entering a "second machine age". In the first, steam power replaced horse power (and the horses were in no position to complain). Now machines are replacing cognitive functions. "If you can describe a job step by step, it will be replaced. We have a surplus of lawyers in the US. Search engines took over much of the work they used to do."

Yet traditionally undervalued talents have become valued – "Who'd have thought Kim Kardashian had marketable skills?"

The traditional education paradigm, which Zhao describes as "Funneling diverse people through standardised schooling to deliver employable skills," isn't working any more.

He sees creativity as the key to future job security and believes our education model stifles creative types – "They're troublemakers." Schools and universities should focus on personalised education, enhancing people's strengths, cultivating skills that can't be replaced by machines and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit. "Schooling trains employees. If you want to be managed, you won't be employable in the future."

For more on Yong Zhao's vision of education, visit

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