This is part two of a six part series.
“We are in a time of change like never before.” Robert Johnson, President of Western New England University.
The foundations of higher education are being challenged and universities need to adapt.
Higher education is facing one of the greatest periods of unknowns in recent memory. There is not a single aspect of education that has not been challenged by the pandemic. But that’s not the only source of uncertainty. Technology is changing so fast that the hard skills we mastered in school become obsolete within a few years. Some of the most exciting career opportunities might lie in fields that don’t even exist yet, with challenges we can’t even imagine.
This is part two of a six-part series on managing uncertainty in business, healthcare, and higher education. The articles in this series contain a mix of written content and short videos by people from different industries. Part one introduced them Secret of uncertainty: see change as an opportunity, not a threat. In this article, I will explore how uncertainty forces higher education to evolve.
Higher education must deal with its own uncertainty while training students to deal with the unknown so that they become the kind of workers and leaders that our institutions need.
The interface between higher education and personnel development
How do you train future leaders in an environment that is constantly changing?
That was the theme of Session 1 of the fourth annual Leadership in the Age of Personalization Summit, held in October at Clemson University’s Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business.
Higher education experts suggest that education should look less structured and make room for more diversity: new pathways, multiple streams, demanding a wider range of credentials – so people can upskill as needed and apply those skills immediately.
Western New England University President Robert Johnson opened a session on how higher education must change to address this uncertainty in our age of personalization. Watch this short video to see how he sees the challenges when universities need to teach young people to use emerging technologies to solve problems they can’t even imagine.
A panel discussion then included expert insights from three leaders in higher education:
- Daniel Durbin, President and CEO of Second Founding of America. He believes universities are lagging behind when it comes to providing students with the skills they need for their future careers.
- Nancy Hubbard, Dean of the College of Business at the University of Lynchburg. She said colleges need to do more to include and welcome all students, especially those from historically underrepresented groups.
- Raghu Krishnaiah, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Phoenix. He founded an institute to combine study and work and found that despite negative circumstances in the world, most people are optimistic about their career prospects.
How to prepare for jobs that don’t exist yet
Panellists agreed that universities need to focus on teaching students conceptual thinking so they can work well with others. Both hard and soft skills are important for success in today’s ever-changing world. But given the speed at which our world is changing and how rapidly technology advances, many hard skills may only remain relevant for a few years. This means that one of the most valuable skills humans can learn is the ability to continuously learn.
In this short video, panelists talk about the essential soft skills – abilities like creativity, openness, collaboration and more. They discuss what a new higher education model should look like in order to meet the needs of students and their future employers.
They also emphasize the importance of giving students and staff the freedom to question things and be included in decisions.
That last point underscores the importance of another skill I write about regularly: the ability to unleash ourselves and others. Permission to question and the confidence to participate in decision-making both require knowing and trusting one’s own insights—and also knowing and trusting that it’s safe to share one’s insights at school or in the workplace . This is an environment of trust that needs to be consciously created and nurtured by leaders who know how to do it.
Having that confidence in yourself and giving that confidence to others is a skill that our workplaces desperately need. I’ll explore this topic in more detail in part three of this series, where we’ll look at how insecurity affects the workplace.