Human Resources

Can formal education adapt fast enough to meet the needs of changing skills?

November 29, 2023
4.5 minutes


In an era defined by rapid technological advancements, globalization, and dynamic shifts in the job market, the landscape of skills required in the workforce is constantly evolving. As we navigate an ever-changing world, the need for adaptable, forward-thinking individuals has never been more crucial. In this blog post, we delve into the transformations occurring in the skills demanded by employers, examining their impact on the workforce. Furthermore, we explore the pivotal role that formal education plays in preparing individuals for these changes. From the agility of curriculum development to the integration of technology and collaboration with industries, we dissect how formal education can not only keep pace with the evolving skill requirements but also foster a foundation for lifelong learning and success in the contemporary professional landscape. 

Let’s dive into the relationship between skills, workforce demands, and the role of formal education in shaping a resilient and adept workforce for the future.

Why Formal Education Still Matters

The role of formal education has been challenged in today’s job market. More organizations are taking a skills-based approach to hiring. Some of the biggest tech employers, like Apple and Google, have their own education programs for their employees to skill in the manner that meets their organizational skills requirements. 

So before we even examine how formal education can keep pace with the changes to the labour market, it begs the question - does formal education still matter?

The answer is both complex and personal. But let’s just take a quick look at some of the benefits of formal education:

Foundation of Knowledge and Skills

Formal education provides a broad foundation of knowledge across various disciplines. This breadth can be important for developing a well-rounded understanding of the world. Formal education also equips individuals with fundamental skills such as critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, and research abilities, which are applicable across diverse contexts and professions.

Credentialing and Employment Opportunities

In some professions, a formal education is a basic requirement. Certain roles, especially those in specialized fields like medicine, law, and engineering, often require specific educational credentials.

Research and Innovation

Formal education introduces individuals to research methodologies, encouraging them to explore, question, and contribute to knowledge creation. And educational institutions are often hubs of innovation, where research and creativity thrive. This innovation contributes to societal progress and economic development.

While acknowledging the importance of formal education, it's also essential to recognize the need for continuous adaptation and innovation within educational systems to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. Combining formal education with other learning modalities, such as online courses, apprenticeships, and experiential learning, can create a more comprehensive approach to skill development and knowledge acquisition.

How Formal Education is Keeping Pace with Changes to the Workforce

Given this, let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that play into the formal education system’s ability to keep pace with the rapidly changing demands of the workforce:

  • Curriculum Development: The speed at which formal education can adapt often depends on how quickly curricula can be updated. Bureaucratic processes, accreditation requirements, and the traditional structure of educational institutions can sometimes hinder swift changes to curricula.

  • Technology Integration: The integration of new technologies into education is crucial for keeping up with changing skills. This includes not only teaching technology-related skills but also utilizing technology to deliver education in more flexible and dynamic ways.

  • Industry Collaboration: Collaboration between educational institutions and industries can help align curricula with the actual needs of the job market. Partnerships, internships, and advisory boards involving industry professionals can provide valuable insights into emerging skills.

  • Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education: Recognizing that learning is a lifelong process, there is a growing emphasis on providing opportunities for ongoing education and skill development beyond traditional degree programs. Online courses, micro-credentials, and other flexible learning formats are becoming more popular.

  • Soft Skills Development: Beyond technical skills, there is an increasing recognition of the importance of soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, and adaptability. Formal education systems need to integrate these skills into their curricula to prepare students for a rapidly changing work environment.

  • Government Policies: Government policies play a significant role in shaping the education system. Policies that support flexibility, innovation, and collaboration between educational institutions and industries can contribute to a more adaptable education system.

  • Teacher Training and Professional Development: Teachers and instructors need ongoing training to stay updated on the latest advancements in their fields and to effectively incorporate new teaching methods and technologies into their classrooms.

  • Globalization and Cultural Awareness: As the world becomes more interconnected, there is a growing need for individuals to possess global perspectives and cultural awareness. Education systems must adapt to prepare students for diverse and globalized workplaces.

While there are challenges, there are also positive developments and efforts to address these issues. Some educational institutions are embracing more agile approaches to curriculum development, and online learning platforms are providing accessible and flexible education options. The key lies in fostering a culture of adaptability, innovation, and collaboration within the education sector.

Promising Developments in Formal Education

There are innovative strategies that educational institutions are adopting to stay on top of the changing skills required by the labor force.

Let’s delve into concrete examples, from agile approaches to curriculum development to emerging micro-credentials. These proactive measures not only highlight the adaptability of formal education but also underscore its pivotal role in shaping a workforce equipped for success in today’s corporate setting.

Agile Approaches to Curriculum Development

Some universities and educational institutions are adopting agile methodologies traditionally used in software development to create more responsive and adaptable curricula. This involves iterative development, frequent feedback loops, and the ability to make quick adjustments based on industry trends.

Agile approaches allow educational programs to stay current with industry needs. For instance, a computer science program might regularly update its courses to incorporate the latest programming languages or emerging technologies.

Micro-Credentials and Digital Badges

Educational institutions and online platforms are offering micro-credentials and digital badges for specific skills or competencies. Learners can earn these credentials by completing short, targeted courses or modules, showcasing their expertise in a particular area.

Micro-credentials provide a more flexible and modular way for individuals to acquire and demonstrate skills. They are often more responsive to industry demands and can be earned alongside or independently of traditional degrees.

Online Learning Platforms

Platforms like Coursera, edX, Udemy and LinkedIn Learning offer a wide range of courses and programs that individuals can access from anywhere. These platforms often collaborate with industry leaders to design courses that align with current job market needs.

Online learning platforms provide accessibility and flexibility, allowing learners to study at their own pace and choose from a diverse array of courses. Additionally, they enable individuals to acquire skills in emerging fields like data science, artificial intelligence, and digital marketing.

Collaboration with Industry Partners

Some educational institutions establish strong partnerships with industry leaders to co-create curricula, offer internships, and provide real-world projects. This collaboration ensures that educational programs are directly informed by industry requirements.

Industry collaboration helps bridge the gap between academic theory and practical workplace skills. Students can gain insights into industry expectations, and employers benefit from hiring graduates who are well-prepared for the demands of the workforce.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning involves students working on real-world projects that require them to apply their knowledge and skills in a practical context. This approach is gaining popularity in various disciplines, from engineering to business.

Project-based learning fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork—essential skills for the modern workplace. It also allows students to develop a portfolio of work that can demonstrate their abilities to potential employers.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

OER are freely accessible educational materials, including textbooks, lectures, and interactive modules. These resources are shared openly, allowing educators to adapt and customize content for their courses.

OER reduce the cost of education and enable educators to incorporate the most up-to-date information into their teaching materials. This flexibility is particularly valuable in fast-changing fields where traditional textbooks may quickly become outdated.

These examples illustrate a shift towards more dynamic, adaptable, and learner-centered approaches in education. By embracing these positive developments, educational institutions are better positioned to meet the evolving needs of learners and the demands of a rapidly changing job market.

Similar posts

Read more great content from the tilr blog!

Get a live demo of tilr!

See what has leading business and talent leaders raving!
Get a Demo!
circle check box
Live 1:1 demo
circle check box
No pressure