How can Post Secondary/ Higher Education Deliver Skills for Industry

The eagerness to find answers sometimes means we don’t investigate the challenges in sufficient depth and consequently deliver a solution which is shallow in both content and the resulting outcome.

There have been numerous studies on what ‘21st Century’ skills are needed. We are nearly a fifth of the way through the century, so maybe a better title is needed! In any case by the time most of the research papers and reports are published the world has moved on.

What we do know is that the way we work, the skills we need to thrive in our jobs and the trajectories of our careers are rapidly evolving. 

The skill demanded by the market are being altered by change driven by:
- technological innovation,
- demographics,
- shifting business models; and
- nature of work

According to the World Economic Forum approx 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change by 2020. So how do we adapt what is already in place? Can we rewire this jet while it is still in flight?

Let's look at a simple scenario. Are certain academic fields feeling this pressure more acutely than others?

If a learner enrols to study Archeology what future job prospects are there?  The presumption is that the career path, though opportunities do exist, is not as clear as other routes. Or is it?

Does the institution take responsibility for best articulating all the attributes and skills that will accrue to the learner beyond just the technical subject matter? Responsibility both to the learner, to continue to support enrolment, as well as to potential employers who may be more attracted to graduates from others disciplines. At a very superficial level, it would be a crime not to position these learners as possessing skills that would deliver employee attributes such as analysis, research and report writing as well as competencies such as communication, collaboration and critical thinking. And that doesn’t start to talk about the passion that is required to undertake archaeological fieldwork. That speaks to resilience and tenacity.

That may be a crude example but a lot of the time its about positioning what you already have before embarking on technical and structural disruption.

From a process perspective, if the decision is to go out and take some very proactive steps than consider the following as a guideline approach:

- Understand skills demand
- Take stock of and recognise existing skills: The assessment of skills should also be coupled with competency-based education, assessment and credentialing
- Create shorter learning module. Look at breaking up the course into smaller modules and start bringing about a lifelong learning relationship with the learner rather than just one 3/4 year stint.
- Look at scalability and remote delivery through blended offline and online delivery.
- Determine the role of different stakeholders. Work with local employers, business associations and govt bodies that promote economic development.

Creating an ecosystem to promote the exchange of learnings with local and national employers is critical to both address the skills needs of the learners as well as manage the negative perceptions of the market.

The relationship between Employer and Employee with respect to Competencies was best articulated by Jamai Blivin from Educate+Innovate detailing that while education’s role is about Competency Discovery and Development, the employer’s role is that of Competency Filtering and People Analytics.

It is therefore about building bridges into industry for ongoing collaboration with a focus on delivering to the learner, skills that sets them up for future career choices in an ever changing world.


Keith HampsonComment