Most of us remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The expectation was clear: before leaving university, we’d choose a career and then stick with it our whole lives. Those of us privileged enough to be able to afford the time and costs of a post-secondary education also felt enormous pressure to get into the “right” school to gain our “one degree” for our “one career.”
Life tends to have twists and turns in store for us, though, and my experience couldn’t be further from this well-worn path. I never dreamed that I’d be leading the Social Impact and Education teams at a real-time 3D company, helping people shape the world by creating everything from video games to self-driving cars and social impact experiences. And I’m not alone – today, the average career tenure is just four years, and 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.
“37% of the top 20 skills requested for the average US job have changed since 2016. One in five skills (22%) requested for the average US job is an entirely new requirement in that occupation.” – BCG
I’ve had the opportunity to shift gears and do many kinds of work by continuously upskilling throughout my professional life. Of the skills you find most valuable in your career, how many of them did you learn at school? If your experience has been anything like mine, you’ll have learned most of them on the job, through your network, and with help from impactful online learning tools like Unity Learn.
There’s a growing disconnect between what we’re teaching students today and the skill requirements of the economy they’ll be entering. Why? It’s simple – the world is changing too quickly for traditional education models to keep up.
Even with infinite school budgets and resources, it would be next to impossible to keep curricula up to date with the new technologies and skill requirements that appear on a regular basis. In fact, in a study of over 15 million job postings from 2016 to 2021, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Emsi Burning Glass, and the Burning Glass Institute found that almost 75% of jobs changed more from 2019 to 2021 than from 2016 to 2018, showing a huge acceleration in the evolution of skills requested over time. This is creating a significant talent gap that not only affects corporate innovation and profits (forecasted to be $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues by 2030), but has long-lasting impacts on individual opportunities and the livelihoods of our communities, as well.
“69% of companies globally reported talent shortages in 2021. That's up from just 35% in 2013.” – ManpowerGroup
These figures tell me that we’re asking too much of our schools. But how do you build an effective curriculum and train educators to confidently teach something that’s only just been invented and will continue to rapidly change? Unless we show future generations how to learn, adapt, and prepare for the unknown, we’re failing to get them ready for tomorrow’s economy.
While we may not always be able to teach students the latest software or anticipate what trends the 2030s will bring, we can teach them something much more valuable: how to game their careers.
Some of the skills I’ve found most valuable in my career are the kinds of skills accessible to anyone. Learning how to learn, communicate, collaborate, and negotiate; how to think strategically; how to navigate unexpected situations and resolve conflict; how to recognize the areas I need to improve in; and, crucially, how I can steer my career path.
It’s common to treat these as skills that just need to be learned on the job through internships, apprenticeship programs, mentorship, and being thrown into the deep end of the working world. However, I believe these skills can be successfully acquired somewhere many senior leaders would least expect: gaming.
I’ve learned during my time in the industry that gaming can quickly teach us skills and attitudes that would usually take years to hone – and in a much more fun and engaging way. There’s the resilience to keep trying and learn from our failures, the creativity to face a new problem and solve it with no rulebook, and the resourcefulness needed to figure out solutions with limited tools. There’s teamwork as we face challenges while leaning on each other’s strengths, and patience as we build skills and unlock new talents. And of course, there’s the ability to admit when we’re stuck, search for answers and solutions, and turn to others for help.
It’s not just my experience; more and more research is validating the improved cognitive skills gained from playing video games. Best of all, it’s a faster, significantly cheaper, and more accessible approach than a four-year degree, seeing as over two-thirds of adults play video games regularly.
So, how are we thinking about this problem at Unity? Fundamentally, we believe that 21st-century careers should be accessible to everyone, regardless of geographic region or household income. This drives us to work with schools to build inclusive programs that incorporate future-ready skills into their curricula through gaming and computer science. By learning how to use the Unity engine to create games and other virtual experiences, we’ve seen students improve their teamwork, communication, creativity, strategy, problem solving, and more.
“Now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to equip young people with the skills necessary for future jobs – providing them with learning that translates to earning.”
Our team is dedicated to empowering everyone to learn these skills. We work with academic institutions to level up their curricula, partner with companies like Meta to provide equitable access to essential 21st-century education, and develop free online courses for anyone looking to boost their career or change paths entirely (like Robbie Coey, who completed one of our Pathways to achieve his dream career of building games).
Gamers are some of the most talented and agile colleagues that I’ve worked with, and I’m grateful to have learned so many of my career skills from them. I’m also grateful that we are navigating an economy with so many opportunities, instead of being stuck in one career for our whole lives.
As Gabrielle Zevin says about a fictionalized indie game team in her recent, best-selling book, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, “What is a game?... It's tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It's the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption. The idea that if you keep playing, you could win.” As long as we keep playing and learning in our careers, we all win. That’s why I believe that the world truly is a better place with more creators in it.