Preparing Students for Employability in an Unstable Ever-Changing Global Economy

The unenviable job facing faculty, career service professionals and international educators sending students abroad, is embedded in the title of this post.  We know the world of work is always changing – and within any given four-year period, how is it possible for campuses and their curricular and co-curricular offerings to stay ahead of the local-national-and global economy and the skills necessary for students to succeed upon graduation?

Sharma quotes the senior minister of state for education in Singapore who says:  “How do you cope with the fact that the education you have may not perfectly prepare you for your first, second, third, or whatever number of jobs?”

One response in this piece comes from Nina Waaler, vice-rector for education at Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences:  “…universities must instill curiosity and openness [in students] so that they know that what they are learning probably will not be current when they are looking for a job…and institutions have to find the mix of factual knowledge and tools to be open and rigorous at the same time.  Finding the right balance when the slope is changing (of course, she’d use a skiing metaphor!), is the great challenge for institutions.”

As in the Soffel piece, and as has been outlined in numerous pieces of research, we do know quite a bit about the collection of skills and competencies –in a broadly generic way- that most companies and organizations “require” or prefer to see in their job candidates.  Several of my blogs in recent years have called attention to the “toolkit” which students should carry with them after graduation…

The challenge facing all educational institutions is laid out well by Moller in his paper:  “In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations of specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.”

But you say, none of this has much to do with true purpose of “higher” learning or with the mission of the university…And I’d say, really?  Well, perhaps faculty who started their careers in the last century might say something like this.  I know the international educators I know, have worked with, and who are in leadership roles on their campuses – or with non-profit educational organizations (and for-profits, too) are actively engaged in re-thinking how they do prepare students for entering an economy which is ever-changing.  They are trying to re-design their programs to purposefully engage students in learning how to choose opportunities which will develop both cognitive and affective skills.  They are striving to help students take risks in their experiential learning. To “see” the deeper meaning in what they are learning outside the classroom.

This post reflects thoughts gleamed from the following diverse set of recent research papers, reports and essays written over the past year and a half or so:

“Future-ready Universities and Graduates: Quality Education Beyond the Horizon,” 6th ASEF Conference & Students’ Forum, 2017, Singapore, Prof. Jorgen Ostrom Moller http://www.asef.org/images/docs/ARC6_Commissioned%20Paper_MOELLER.pdf

The Future of Work, Jeff Selingo  https://www.workday.com/content/dam/web/en-us/documents/whitepapers/the-future-of-work-part-two.pdf

Gone International: Mobile Students and their Outcomes, report of the 2012/13 graduating cohort http://go.international.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Gone%20International%20mobile%20students%20and%20their%20outcomes_1.pdf

How do you prepare students for an unknowable future? Yojana Sharma http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20171014062003256

College is Just the Beginning: Employers’ Role in the $1.1 Trillion Postsecondary Education and Training System https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/college-is-just-the-beginning/#full-report

What are the 21st-century skills every student needs? Jenny Soffel https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/21st-century-skills-future-jobs-students/?platform=hootsuite

 

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