Workplace demands are changing – our education needs to keep up!

14th February 2024

Adil Abdoula

Workplace demands are changing – our education needs to keep up!

According to a McKinsey report*, by 2030, one in 16 workers will have to change occupation to meet the changing needs of the labour market, a trend that has been accelerated by rapid advances in technology such as automation and AI. Whilst these have made processes more efficient and accelerated the pace of innovation, they also created new challenges for the existing workforce. As the rate of technological progress has far surpassed the pace of upskilling and reskilling, businesses across the globe have begun a race for talent. Organisations increasingly focus on broader workplace needs such as creativity, innovation, employee well-being, mental health and social impact, driven by an increasing share of Gen Z and millennials in the workforce who tend to demand more than just financial reward and career progression.

Today, we are the centre of a skills revolution, that will not only drive a focus on technological skills but also on advanced cognitive and emotional skills to manage and lead others in a digitalised world. To address the skills gap both short and long term solutions need to be considered. In the short term workplace training, upskilling, or hiring of new talent will help. However, a more sustainable, long-term solution will require a careful rethink of how we approach the stages of our education and development starting right from the beginning!

Early Years: Embracing technology and focusing on play-based learning

In the early stages of education, technology is becoming an integral part of learning. Using the right tools can support the development of the child’s motor skills, eye-hand co-ordination, reading, writing, and the processing of information. Research has shown that integrating technology at this stage not only enhances learning but also primes young minds for the tech-driven world they will enter.

The need for developing better cognitive skills has also driven educational experts and psychologists to suggest emphasising the importance of play in the learning process. Play is a powerful tool that not only nurtures creativity and problem-solving, but also accelerates tech proficiency from the very beginning. When used appropriately and done interactively with adults, learning through play and technology can be more effective and help improve the child’s social and emotional development.

K12: Beyond Academics: Nurturing minds and emotions

Digital solutions, connected devices and integrated learning platforms have completely transformed how classrooms operate including the role teachers play, i.e. increasingly as facilitators on top of instructors. The rapid move to online learning during COVID has caused a permanent shift in how students use technology. Children have become more autonomous in their learning using ubiquitous devices and accessing virtual modalities, a trend that has facilitated remote student support solutions as teachers spend more time online.

K12 education is also witnessing a significant shift from a purely academic focus to a more holistic approach. There is a growing recognition that the skills essential for success extend far beyond the classroom. Whilst professional and personal achievements often require a growth mindset, unwavering self-belief, passion, and emotional resilience, our schools have historically failed to instil such powerful traits and behaviours. This shift demands not only a re-evaluation of educational priorities but also underscores the imperative for continuous teacher development and a curriculum that puts the minds and emotions of students at its heart. 

Higher Education: Equipping for employment and experience

Higher education institutions are being continuously challenged to provide talent that is ready and equipped for the workplace. Employers often spend months training graduates on key workplace skills, a responsibility that should arguably lie with universities and other higher education providers.

As new models for higher education have emerged, many providers are now competing by offering relevant employment pathways for their students. Experiential learning through placement programmes or virtual internships are becoming more common and so are micro-credentials and badges which employers increasingly value.

Other models such as Recruit Train Deploy (RTD) have become increasingly popular particularly in the tech sector. Graduates receive relevant training and extensive on-the-job experience before formally transitioning into the workplace, a solution that meets the demands of both graduates and employers particularly well.

Professional Training: Tailoring skills for a dynamic future

By far the quickest way to address the skills gap is for employers to re-evaluate their approach to recruitment and assess how the existing workforce can be re-deployed internally, supported by the right upskilling and coaching initiatives.

By carefully defining the needs of the future workforce, organisations can take a more strategic approach to recruitment, focusing not only on experience and qualifications but also on skills. Reskilling and upskilling can be incredibly effective especially when supported by a personalised support system such as coaching or mentoring. Internal career paths also create the right drive and a sense of ownership that can truly empower individuals to grow and develop into their role.

None of these initiatives can be truly effectively without an appropriate growth mindset and continuous learning culture at work. Such a culture fosters an environment where continuous learning is not only encouraged but becomes an integral part of the organisation’s DNA.

* “The future of work after COVID-19,” McKinsey Global Institute, February 19, 2021. 

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