How Can Higher Education Adapt to the Future of Work?
We are in the middle of a dynamic economic and social transformation now. It has been catalysed by ground breaking advances and innovations in automation and artificial intelligence. We now have unprecedented access to data and computation. The impact of these new technologies affects almost every sector of our economy. It affects a wide range of professions like healthcare, transportation, finance, manufacturing, energy, and others.
As we have seen during previous industrial revolutions, these innovations have the potential to bring extraordinary benefits to society and contribute to prosperity. Innovations can also transform the future of work and contribute to a glaring difference between the best and least educated in society.
We have identified six broad areas that can define how higher education can adapt to the future of work –
- Focus on “human” skills
As new industries are created, and traditional ones expand and contract significantly, the skills needed to keep up are evolving faster than ever. Higher education leaders and Educators should approach with a flexible growth mindset while working with skill competencies. It will serve hundreds of students well across the globe throughout their careers in the new-age knowledge-based economy.
There is a need to train the next generation in emerging digital competencies, and that is a fact you cannot deny. Students must be fluent in designing innovative blueprints of technology. They should be developing and employing technology at the highest standard. At the same time, these students must learn how to approach problems from many perspectives, cultivate and exploit creativity, engage in complex communication, and leverage critical thinking. With a future of constantly evolving, these non-automatable “human” skills are foundational and will only increase in value as automation becomes more mainstream.
- Learn the “T-shape” knowledge approach
The vast set of skills needed by the future workforce also affects our approach to the educational structure. Like many other institutions at Carnegie Mellon University, we have been making disciplinary boundaries much more porous. We have launched programmes at the edges and intersections of traditional fields, such as computational biology behavioural economics, along with arts, design, and technology.
The experts believe that this approach prepares the students for the impending future where they need to think and work across boundaries. The technique of combining both breadth and depth in higher education has also led to many universities embracing “T-shaped” teaching and learning philosophies, in which vertical (deep disciplinary) expertise is combined with horizontal (cross-cutting) knowledge.
- Invest in technology-oriented learning
The demand for highly skilled workers is ever-increasing. A recent analysis of an article states that more than 40% of manufacturing workers now possess a college or a Masters’ degree. Furthermore, it is estimated that by 2022, manufacturers are looking to hire more college graduates than students having a high-school education or less.
Technology-oriented learning can help students keep up with the demand for the existing workforce to learn new skills. Moreover, technology-oriented learning has the potential to shorten the racial, socioeconomic, and achievement gaps between the students. The Simon Initiative at Carnegie Mellon tried to accelerate this trend through learning to engineer, an approach that combines learning research, data, and technology.
In fact, last year, CMU released the OpenSimon Toolkit. It makes technology-based learning techniques, underlying codes, and software more accessible. The experts are convinced that these tools can democratise learning science and create a global, collaborative community of learning engineers within higher education.
- Consider newer models of engagement for the private and public sectors
The world is advancing rapidly, and a more comprehensive workforce with a solid education strategy can increase the chances of achieving new policies, programmes, and access.
The private sector, public sector, educators, and policy-makers must work together to deliver multiple pathways to opportunity for young people looking for their first foothold in the job market and to reskill and up-skill. In addition, workers are striving to maintain their place in the workforce. Public-private partnerships focus on higher educational attainment, and workforce development is long-term investments in a prosperous economy.
Higher education has the unique power to catalyse social mobility and bridge the gap between social, economic, geographic, and racial factors. As job markets are constantly evolving, it has become clear that the future needs a system of higher education that is both dynamic and adaptable, even as the technologies around us are evolving.
5. Bridging industry and academia
There are many so-called “stackable” credentials combining professional badges and certificates that will only grow in importance given the need to reskill millions of adults without necessarily sending them back to school.
Just as the pandemic propelled the professionals and students to remote and hybrid work from home models, they have detoured from the mainstream system. However, it can also breathe new wind into online education platforms. We have seen that only a decade ago, such concepts were being deemed as the future. Rather than replacing universities, online programs may provide the kind of “lifelong learning” to help bridge the skills gap.
6. A new age curriculum
We have seen the advent of “future-proof skills” such as teamwork, communication, and critical thinking. Finally, the “digital skills” — disciplines such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and the clean electrification of everything.
Traditional degree programs are struggling to keep pace with these rapidly evolving skill sets. Over the last few decades, those pathways have narrowed to four-year degrees. Now they are usually accompanied by high costs. The unspoken assumption is that the new graduates understand how to survive the current job market. However, this arrangement is especially harsh to low-income, first-generation, and minority students.
So, you can create new pathways replacing events like job fairs where start-to-finish programs are designed to teach the students how to apply their skills in real life. This also means inviting the companies to help create such programs. It can be implicit, or even explicit, or even a promise of a job in exchange for shaping the curriculum in certain scenarios.
The whole education fraternity has been striving to bring reforms and new ideas to the education industry. The idea of a revolution in this sector is needed to bring the necessary changes in how higher education can evolve and adapt to the future of work. The professors and faculty can refer to these broad spectrums to understand what needs to be done to achieve that goal.
John Harris has been working as a professor for the last ten years. He has recently joined Allessaywriter.com as an academic paper writer. He loves to play the piano in his free time.