How higher ed, industry can prep students for the workforce of the future
A recent study by PwC reveals a shocking statistic: Only 10% of teachers say they feel confident teaching high-level technology, even though they know students will need a strong tech knowledge base to succeed in the workforce.
It's estimated that by 2020 almost 80% of jobs will require some degree of technical skills. The lack of confidence on the part of teachers and the estimated need may be dire news for employers. In a separate PwC survey, 79% of CEOs in the U.S. are concerned the shortage of people with key skills could impact their companies' growth.
At the college level, it's estimated that 50% of subject knowledge acquired in the first year of a four-year tech degree will be outdated by graduation. Julie Meyer, director of talent management at West Monroe Partners, explained in an email the details of the company's Journey Program. Through the early identification campus recruiting program, they partner with a number of local schools to provide training and real-world experience for college students that are interested in pursuing consulting.
Obviously, college education has its place; students obtain the discipline to master difficult information and undertake complex projects that may take years to complete. However, said Robert David, managing director of corporate education, University of California, Berkeley, "students typically outgrow that baseline education quickly, especially as knowledge evolves, new technology emerges and methods of working change."
Colleges are aware of the disconnect. UC Berkeley constantly monitors course offerings to see if they are meeting marketplace demands, and adjust accordingly. "When new fields of knowledge come forward, such as big data, we create programs quickly and make it available in a variety of formats — classroom, online, hybrid, or boot camps," David said. "In other words, we offer just-in-time corporate education for an ever-changing world."
David relies heavily on his advisory board of industry leaders that keep him current on what's changing in the workplace and how learning and development impacts each of them differently across industries and sizes of organizations. That collaboration may be key.
"I encourage HR leaders to engage with us to help make sure what we teach is what their workforces need," he said. "This will then support instructors in their course offerings." In classroom settings, group projects give employees and instructors the opportunity to learn from each other, he added.
"It's incredibly valuable for organizations to work with schools so that students can receive the career training that they wouldn't be able to get in the classroom," Meyer said, "allowing the emerging workforce to be proficiently trained post-graduation."
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has created baseline framework standards for students, educators, coaches and administrations to help them grow, create innovative learning environments and trying to "re-engineer schools and classrooms for digital age learning." It suggests professional development is giving way to professional learning that focuses on "ongoing, embedded opportunities for growth using active methods."
Instructors are at the cutting edge of prepping the next generation of workers — almost all of whom will need some level of digital savvy to participate in the workforce. Access to corporate partnerships, online learning and even government funding can help them gain the skills and confidence they need to prep the workforce of tomorrow.
Efforts to give teachers better access — which would improve the education they offer and expand the skill base of a generation of future workers — have taken a variety of forms.
The Center for Digital Education offers technology coaches, described as a dedicated staffer in a district or a single school to "work with teachers to develop technology-enhanced lessons and instruction, while providing in-class peer mentoring."
At the federal level, the Office of Educational Technology offers planning guides and examples of funding available to improve digital instructional and student outcomes. Funding may be accessed under Titles I through IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Some government funding may also be available on the state and local level.
The employer connection
What all this work, discussion and resource building aims to do is increase the availability of qualified workers for employers by focusing further up the pipeline. Increased recognition of the business costs tied to talent gaps has put a finer point on the need for better education solutions that address skills shortfalls long before employees enter the workforce. To that end, collaboration between employers, teachers and the government will likely continue.
In general, employers are going to have to get creative in patching talent gaps. Employer support for education programs with a workforce focus could help ensure that the looming threat of a significantly worsening skills gap is mitigated.