Education methods have reformed in the modern changing times. Society and technology are evolving so fast that new approaches to education are needed. More critically, the scale of the potential future skills gap means that we will need a vast pipeline of talent in the future, and this will be made-up of traditional students and a growing number of non-traditional students.
At Heriot-Watt University’s Future Skills Conference at the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal, Enterprise and Business, explored new ways in which students of all ages are preparing for the jobs of tomorrow.
Speaking about the evolution in the teaching and learning system, Murray said: “In the past, most students took a conventional path, entering higher education in their late teens or early 20s, but now many are learning from a distance rather than studying on campus or re-entering higher education while working full-time. A large proportion of our students are now in their late 30s and early 40s. Instead of filing in and out of lecture theatres and the university library, they are learning online at a time to suit their busy lives, allowing them to juggle a job, childcare, or looking after ageing parents.”
The curriculum is radically changing to adapt to future needs. Murray emphasised the detailed skills as today’s generation is much more career oriented than before.
“By 2030, the so-called ‘non-traditional’ learners are predicted to overtake traditional, campus-based students. That growth is being driven in part by workers wanting to update their skills or learn extra skills to help them with their career goals alongside businesses keen to upskill their employees as the job market changes,” she explained.
The education world is adjusting to a new reality. At the Future Skills Conference, a key component of focus was given to non-traditional learners. The day-long event brought together experts from throughout the world to discuss the new ways in which students are learning, as well as the skills they will need in the jobs and industries of the future.
Highlighting the thought process behind the conference, Murray described the modern-day pedagogy of teaching, “We discussed learning with a purpose – learning that will help to tackle the threats faced by the world, from the climate emergency through to coping with debilitating diseases like dementia. We also looked at the skills, the entrepreneurial mindset, and the need for lifelong learning to help our workforce grow the global economy.”
Time is of the essence. A report by the consultancy firm Korn Ferry found that more than 85 million jobs are likely to go unfilled by 2030 because people won’t have the right skills, costing the global economy $8.5 trillion.
Talking about the huge strides in technology, Murray spoke about the new initiative of Heriot-Watt that will help the students in bridging the gap between changing times. “During the conference, we launched Heriot-Watt Online, our new education initiative that will open up learning to hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. This isn’t simply online learning; these are tailored courses that have been developed with businesses to fill current and future skills gaps.”
In addition to structure, the courses being offered by the university, Murray said, will be diverse and expansive. She said: “Courses offered through Heriot-Watt Online will range from Master’s degrees in subjects as diverse as data analytics, digital transformation, and supply chain management and logistics through to undergraduate degrees and apprenticeships.”
Online learning is flexible and not geographically bounded. Praising the e-learning history of the university, Murray said: “Our university has a long history in this field, having delivered our online Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) courses across 160 countries for the past 20 years. These courses not only helped our students develop the skills they need for their current jobs but also prepared them for the roles they’ll go on to fulfil in the future.”
Concluding her thoughts on the event, Murray further added: “As our Future Skills Conference at Expo 2020 Dubai approaches, our researchers and educators are continuing to develop the knowledge and understanding that they need to train both the current and next generation of students to help tackle the challenges facing the planet and harness the opportunities those challenges create. We hope you will join us on that journey.” With a world moving so fast, Universities play an essential role in looking to the future and shaping the industries, sector and jobs of the future. Partnership will be key to success.