Over the holidays I came across an article in the Financial Review outlining the skills that accountants need in the modern workplace. What was surprising about the list was that being able to prepare a budget, check figures on a spreadsheet and calculate profit and loss – the technical elements of accountancy, were fifteenth on the list of most desirable skills. This list is provided in the following graphic (apologies for the spelling mistake in the last attribute on the list!).General quantitative skills appear on this list in seventh place (data analysis, data management), and being able to use technology appears as the eleventh and twelfth most desirable attributes. But the remainder of the list could be described as more general capabilities rather than capabilities specifically associated with the field of accountancy. In fact, they align very closely with what we are seeking to do across the school through the embedding of the Inaburra Learner Profile.

Yet hidden within these different attributes is also something deeper again which hints at the virtuous character that is desirable within the modern workplace. Take, for example, “service-orientation” which is eighth on this list, or the capacity to work well with other people (tenth). Interpersonal skills and the capacity to collaborate can be taught as discrete skill-sets, but the reality is that these capacities are built upon a foundation of empathy, grace, compassion, humility and kindness. This list describes character traits as much as it describes skills. In fact, there is so much overlap between the skills we demonstrate and the character underlying our thoughts and actions that it would be difficult to separate out these two factors from one another.

We have often been told that the goal of schooling is to prepare students for the workplace. Even if this were true (and I would suggest that the goal of education is much broader than this), we are led back to asking big questions about learning capabilities and character formation. How do we build students’ capacity to learn? And how do we give them opportunities to grow in terms of their character? At Inaburra we seek to do both through the learning activities that take place in each classroom where students are stretched and challenged as thinkers, as collaborators, as risk-takers, as leaders, as young people not afraid to ask tough questions and communicate their ideas to others and as people who seek to know and understand what it means to be a global citizen in our interconnected and ever-changing world. 

Dr James Pietsch