With Constant Innovation, Learning to Keep Up

Where forward-thinking companies and higher ed institutions will be looking.

GUEST COLUMN | by Randy Swearer

CREDIT Autodesk image.pngWe are in the midst of an unprecedented moment in time, where technology is advancing faster than ever before.

This poses a challenge for education and learning—as the technology we use in our everyday lives and jobs continues to evolve, so do the skills needed to keep pace.

Next year will be all about learners and employers coming together to tackle problems with education and learning that we cannot face alone.

This continuous need for upskilling means that learning can no longer remain a component of the early years of life, bound by grades and graduations, but must shift from a linear to nonlinear model as jobs change and new skills arise around us.

About That Workforce

Without an emphasis on continuous learning, employers fear that the current workforce is improperly skilled for the way jobs are evolving, and that the next generation will be unprepared by traditional linear education paths.

According to a report by McKinsey&Company, between 400 and 800 million workers around the world could be displaced by automation by 2030.

In the U.S., the displacement could involve up to one-third of the workforce.

Yet behind these numbers, I expect to see automation and AI creating new paths and career opportunities previously unavailable.

In order to prepare for this change, next year will bring a bigger focus on the idea of constant learning, as forward-thinking companies and academia come together to change the way we educate for this new world of rapid innovation, where continued and creative learning is encouraged from Kindergarten through one’s career.

These are the areas where I believe over the next year, we will see emerging technology transform the traditional learning model, and advancements being made to further the concept of lifelong learning.

Micro-credentials and MOOCs will Drive Continued Learning

No one who earns a degree, from high school, college, or beyond, is ever done learning— yet, that is how our education system is currently configured.

After graduation, most people settle into their jobs, where they may hone their skills, but don’t necessarily focus on learning new ones. This model will no longer sustain our workforce, as technology continues to evolve and require new skillsets.

We are already seeing the impact of this misalignment, which has caused a skills gap between what is taught in schools, and the skills in-demand by today’s employers.

A recent study from CareerBuilder found that two in three employers say they are concerned about the growing skills gap, and 57 percent of workers reporting that they want to learn a new skillset to land a better-paying, more fulfilling job.

In 2018, we will see more learners embrace micro-credentials and massive open online courses (MOOCs) on their own, as a way of increasing their knowledge-base, acquiring new skills and transitioning into new industries. Learners will not focus simply on completing majors, but rather mastering new skills in both their current, and new, industries.

Micro-credentials and MOOCs will serve as stackable credentials that provide job seekers with the ability to continually upskill and reorient, constantly building their résumés and becoming even more appealing in today’s competitive job market. In 2018, a portfolio of micro-credentials will prove to be more pragmatic than the standard college curriculum we’ve seen to date.

The onus will not just be on the learner.

In 2018, we will also see academia and educators coming together to help close this skills gap and create curriculum via specialized courses, which will help learners upskill. At my company, we work with Certiport to develop and administer certifications in specialized industry competencies, such as 3D design skills through AutoCAD and Autodesk Fusion 360 certifications.

Companies like Udacity and General Assembly also work with companies to create some amazing online courses for specialized skills.

Academia and Industry will Partner Closely to Address the Skills Gap

With the current skills gap proving to be a major factor in today’s inability to fill jobs, companies will work closely with academia to address this gap, stepping in to help inform curriculum that ties directly back to areas where they will most need talent in the future.

One area we will see these partnerships grow is education around how humans and machines can co-create.

The new relationship between humans and machines has already greatly impacted our society, and that will only continue to accelerate in the coming years.

Intelligent tools will start to become platforms for two-way learning between machines and humans.

In order to keep up, academia will start to partner with leaders in the space, to help students become experts at learning from machines––and likewise about teaching machines the right things to learn.

We will see more companies partner with academia in the areas of construction and manufacturing.

The way in which most people view these fields—as low skill, or non-technical—is antiquated, and still anchored in the 19th and 20th century notions of the industrial age.

In 2018, will we see jobs in industries like manufacturing and construction move from “blue collar” to “new collar,” as emerging technologies, like machine learning, AR, VR, 3D printing, and even drones, attract a new generation of learners and workers.

Solving for a New Horizon in Learning

Next year will be all about learners and employers coming together to tackle problems with education and learning that we cannot face alone.

Learners of all ages must help create their own path by supplementing traditional education with micro-credentials and continuous learning that will make them successful across the arc of their career and lives.

Educators and employers must continue to define their roles as the agents of change, ensuring they are providing the best possible training for the workforce of today.

Randy Swearer, Ph.D., is VP of Learning Futures at Autodesk. He empowers students on a journey of lifelong learning through problem-solving, collaboration and design thinking. Former dean of Parsons School of Design and provost at Philadelphia University, he also served as deputy director of the design program of the National Endowment for the Arts, and was the Design Division head in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas where he was awarded a Texas Excellence Teaching Prize. He earned his Ph.D. in anthropology and urban studies from Union Institute, an M.F.A. in design from Yale University, and a B.A. from Wesleyan University.


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