As parents, we have all experienced the feeling of walking into a playroom, bedroom or family room and stepping down on a hard corner of a random, unattended LEGO piece. Ouch.

But, in these unfortunate situations, we have to remember, those LEGOs are important pieces to many of our lives, memories and learning experiences.

As our kids grow, their interests change and those LEGOs from the floor might find their way into a closet or garage to be forgotten. As parents, our hours of playing creatively with our kids may shift to hours worrying about setting our children up for the best learning path and career. But rest assured, extended play time is actually putting them on the best course for their futures.

These days, the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) floods schools. And by now, we’re all well-versed in the career gaps within the STEM-related fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available and only 400,000 computer-science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. 

But what if your child is not destined for those roles? I can relate. My two daughters are creative makers at heart looking to redesign the world they are learning to navigate. They want to learn how to make and build anything.

Will they not be successful if they don’t want to learn to code or get a degree in computer science? I am here to confidently tell you not to worry because your LEGO-loving kids are already showing signs for some of the most coveted skills of tomorrow’s employers.

Did you know that there are actually more job opportunities in manufacturing and construction than in computer science fields? According to a recent study from Deloitte, job openings in manufacturing have been growing at double-digit rates since mid-2017 and are nearing the historical peak recorded in 2001. The study reveals that the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with a potential economic impact of 2.5 trillion.

The construction industry is also seeing a skills gap, where a recent survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk showed that eighty percent of construction firms are having difficulty filling hourly craft positions. These results indicate a widening gap between the jobs that need to be filled and the skilled talent pool capable of filling them. An interest in LEGOs now may directly translate into a position in one of these promising career paths. 

It’s also important to note that despite what many picture when thinking about jobs in manufacturing and construction, these fields are not just assembly lines and hard hats. Increased digitization and advanced technology are transforming the manufacturing and construction industries. The processes we use to design and create products, as well as build and operate buildings and infrastructure, are requiring more technical expertise than ever before.

An interest in LEGOs now is a great sign for your kids’ future because it demonstrates a gift for building something out of nothing. Here are the top five skills that kids who love LEGOs will develop that will set them up for success in the future:

  1. Soft skills: As people continue to work alongside robots, uniquely human skills like creativity, complex problem solving, emotional intelligence and critical thinking will become irreplaceable.
  2. Technical skills: New opportunities are being created through making, designing and building. Jobs that are currently going unfilled often require industry-specific technical skills and targeted training. At Autodesk, we are seeing the convergence of many technical or trade roles. Companies are looking for employees who can tell you how something is made but can also make it.
  3. Entrepreneurship: As the gig economy grows, our kids’ ability to be innovative and creative, while also taking initiative to launch new ventures, will serve them well. This is a skill that can be cultivated as a child through the encouragement of ideas.
  4. Job readiness: Basic skills such as time management, personal presentation and attendance are critical to entering the workforce. As our kids grow, they can move into working with after-school robotics programs like FIRST or VEX to be parts of teams working on solving challenges.
  5. Adaptability: Now, this could be part of soft skills but I wanted to pull it out. Children’s playtime activities adapt to new play environments; how a kid reacts when he or she loses one of their blocks and has to improvise what they’re building, we see how they may handle an unexpected challenge.

In closing, don’t worry parents, our kids will be OK –– and the next time you step on that random LEGO piece, remember that it’s worth it. Your child will have the ability to truly change how things are designed and made in the world for years to come.