Education & Career Trends: How higher ed is evolving in tandem with changing work scenarios

4 min read

Edition: August 31st, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Universities are rethinking their “customer base,” expanding beyond four-year undergraduates and graduate students. (Image Credit: Getty)
  • Excerpts from article by  Matt Zalaznick, published on

According to a recent Microsoft study, 41% of workers globally are thinking about handing in their resignations. The report also found that 54% of Gen Z workers, those aged 24 and younger and making up nearly half of the global workforce, are also considering giving notice.

Economists warn of a “great resignation” that will reshape the workforce, and it may already be upon us.

The Microsoft study confirms that the world of work has been profoundly reshaped by the pandemic in the following ways:

  • Flexible work is here to stay
  • High productivity levels are masking an exhausted workforce
  • The competitive labour market is resulting in readily available higher salaries
  • People are re-evaluating and re-prioritising their lives and career choices

Higher Ed’s role in Upskilling & Reskilling

Higher education is playing a critical role in upskilling and reskilling the workforce to support career changes in these volatile times.

  • Varsities expanding their ‘customer base’: As a first step, universities are rethinking their ‘customer base’, expanding beyond the traditional focus on four-year undergraduates or graduate students.
  • New, short & sharply focused courses: Many universities are creating short, sharply focused learning modules tied to digital certificates and badges to address the needs of a rapidly transforming economy where skills can quickly become obsolete, even for recent graduates.
  • Addressing the skills gap in working professionals: Meanwhile, employees returning to the office after the pandemic are finding a changed workplace and job requirements more dependent on digital skills and AI than the workplace they knew. Businesses are adapting accordingly as customers in every industry are morphing into digital consumers. This resulting skills gap can be bridged by teaching digital skills through subjects such as math, computer science, information science, data science and statistics.

Universities are already developing a wide range of digital credentialing programmes across disciplines, including:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Data analytics
  • Digital marketing
  • AI
  • Software engineering
  • Blockchain and robotics
  • Leadership for virtual environments

It must be a part of higher education’s mission to encourage and enable lifelong learning and become a partner not just for graduates’ first job out of college, but also for subsequent job moves throughout their careers.

Blossoming of digital badges

  • Participation in remote courses and the acquisition of digital badges have soared during the pandemic because employees and HR departments alike are focusing on bridging the skills gap.
  • Digital credentialing also closely aligns the content of certificates, badges and other measures of achievement with employers’ biggest skill gaps.
  • The payoff for employers to invest in current employees is obvious and could not be more urgent as businesses nationwide struggle to fill open positions and to stem the “great resignation”.
  • Investing in upskilling employees has the added benefits of increased employee retention and morale. 
  • LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Trends report found that 94% of employees would stay longer at companies that invest in professional development.
  • Becoming obsolete is a reality that can be rebuffed with a steady flow of short, targeted learning opportunities delivered in engaging formats.
  • Skill renewal is also a strategy to combat employee disillusion with careers that feel stagnated.

Colleges and universities are no longer just a four-to-six-year chapter in a person’s life. They are becoming closer partners to states and employers in positioning economies, businesses and individual employees for long-term competitiveness, innovation and skill renewal. They may also become the much-needed booster that can re-energise employees’ careers and combat untimely resignations.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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