Ken Robinson holds the distinction of having the most viewed TED talk ever. He rails against an education system that was forged in the heat of the industrial revolution to create a workforce fit to perform the one task they would have to perform for the entirety of their working lives.
It’s a system that is increasingly unfit for purpose. Not only in terms of meeting the widely reported skills shortages in technical disciplines, but also in skills like collaboration and problem solving. These skills are cited as being vital for the fourth industrial revolution. With technology increasingly capable of performing routine tasks, it is beholden on us to develop those skills that are fundamentally human.
The desire to reinvent education is shown in the hunt for educational innovations to better prepare people for the future of work.
The new world of work is about skills, not necessarily degrees. Unfortunately, too many people are stuck in low-skill jobs that have no future and too many businesses cannot find the skilled workers they need. We must remove the stigma of a community college and career education. We must look for opportunities to upskill or reskill workers, and give those who have been left behind the chance to compete for well-paying careers today and tomorrow. We need to invest in finding, developing and piloting innovative new education and training programs that are better aligned to the modern world of work.
becoming a serial master
What becomes more important is having multiple talents. The benefits manifest themselves in a number of ways. For instance, we live a longer life than ever before, and most experts believe we will therefore have multiple careers. Having skills in a number of areas allows us to adapt and pivot into these various careers more easily.
Serial expertise also helps us to innovate more effectively in a world where most patents are recombinative. This means that they take innovations from one domain and apply them in a new way. Areas such as open innovation have shown that most problem solvers come from outside the problem domain. Their ability to look at the problem with fresh eyes is a fundamental aspect of their success.
So rather than taking the T-shaped approach that is common in higher education, we should be striving to develop more of an M-shaped knowledge graph that gives us this multidisciplinary approach to life.
closing the gap
A lot of companies highlights the desire for employees with a very different skillset to that produced by higher education today.
We should aim to educate students not for a specific job, but to equip them with the tools and skills they can apply to any job. Most higher education institutions still very much rely on content dissemination to teach. Teaching should be based on active learning — teaching students how to think, not what to think.
Do you know any initiatives/projects that deliver the kind of education system needed in the future of work? How can you contribute?
A great event to contribute to. Hope for all my Dutch readers and network to see you and PLNT Leiden, The Future of Education SDG Challenge.