For hundreds of years we have had an education system that sets us up for careers and jobs that were generally well defined and had reasonable longevity. Some of those were professional or vocational – medicine, law, nursing, teaching, plumbing and town planning. Others were more general: arts, commerce or science. These degrees got people started in their careers and employers would then generally provide on the job development through training programs, however, as the world of work changes, how graduates and professionals alike remain relevant.
It’s clear that people still value degrees – in their latest report, Can the universities of today lead learning for tomorrow? The University of the Future, EY found that 90 per cent of prospective/ current/ past students think it’s important to have an undergraduate. However, the number of people holding a degree today makes standing out increasingly more difficult, leaving more and more people looking for additional qualifications, certifications or expertise. The demand for learning is shifting.
We are now living and moving towards a future workplace where automation, technology and globalisation is changing the jobs we do and the skills required to do. Employers are now looking for skills like problem solving, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and digital literacy as well as discipline expertise. Professionals also need to be more adaptable and agile – to take on new things, quickly.
So, what does it mean?
There is a shift to education as a continuous learning process. The changing nature of the workforce means there is an increasing demand for continuous development that is self-directed, affordable, accessible and time critical. And with the abundance of information, resources and development programs at our internet fingertips we are expected to, and more importantly can, acquire new knowledge or skills quickly.
Professionals, both new and experienced, need to learn new skills to remain relevant, competitive and in-demand. Pat Wadors in the Harvard Business Review states that “the only way for organisations to ensure their workforces are fully productive and able to achieve business goals is to make sure employees are continuously learning, so that they are driving the business forward.”
So, how do we embrace this need for learning?
If the motivation and ability to develop skills is now on the individuals, the employer’s contribution is to create a culture and framework that supports and rewards self-driven or empowered learning. Businesses needs skills and they will be more effectively developed through on the job learning fuelled by a growth or learning mindset.
There is a strong desire for graduates to develop skills on the job with EY reporting that an overwhelming 83 percent of undergraduate students expressed interest in an integrated employment and education offering had one been available.
So, while we acknowledge the acquisition of new skills often occurs in the workplace, how are those skills recognised?
The lifelong learning culture and motivation will be supported by employers providing recognition and confirmation of skills developed by using micro-credential measurement systems. Micro-credentials underpin a culture of empowered and motivated learning while at the same time increasing employee engagement – attracting, motivating and retaining talent – through recognition.
Professor Beverley Oliver, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Deakin University, in talking to EY for their report stated:
“Why do we teach people what they already know? Our more experience learners have already gained key skills and capabilities in the workplace or working for themselves. Universities can assess what those learners already know using micro credentials and potentially make the credentials credit bearing in the target degree course. This is more efficient, engaging and personalised for the learner.”
Continuous learners will seek on-demand learning and recognition of skills through micro-credentials that provide employment payoffs. For an organisation, they will have a workforce that can adapt its skills to your business needs. Preparing people for the changing workforce is no longer the job of universities. Organisations need to identify, reward and motivate their people through recognition of capabilities while also supporting the constant need to learn.
EY 2018 ‘Can the universities of today lead learning for tomorrow? The University of the Future’, accessed 13 June 2018, https://cdn.ey.com/echannel/au/en/industries/government---public-sector/ey-university-of-the-future-2030/EY-university-of-the-future-2030.pdf
Wadors, P, 2016, ‘To stay relevant, your company and employees must keep learning’, Harvard Business Review, accessed 14 June 2018, https://hbr.org/2016/03/to-stay-relevant-your-company-and-employees-must-keep-learning