Education is one of the last failing industries on the cusp of disruption and the Covid-19 pandemic is catapulting it. Since the industrial revolution, governments have made it mandatory to have at least 2 hours of education per day so children can work in factories. Before the 1800s, poor children could not afford to get educated because schools were not free. As industrialization accelerated and matured over the last 200 years, education has become necessary for companies to employ more educated people to innovate and compete within their respective industries, thus the birth of the trillion-dollar education industry.
The education sector is massive, selling the promise to educate students, where they earn skills to find gainful employment at an enormous cost to parents, students, professionals and companies. Unfortunately, education has failed to deliver on such a promise, at least to the masses. By my calculation, 93.7 percent of people worldwide never step through the doors of a higher education institution. Two percent of students who graduate from higher education institutions succeed in getting a job, although they find themselves working overtime to achieve, maintain and grow in their careers. The remaining of those graduating students struggle to find employment, and the majority discover that work is quite different from what they studied in school.
Today, more and more people are opting out of traditional education because of affordability and the broken promise of fruitful employment in the field of their studies. In a sense, schools are shrinking in value, notwithstanding the inaccessibility of education for the masses.
I struggle to see how the traditional education industry will continue to be sustainable unless there is a complete reset on how both education is delivered and the cost of education is made affordable for the value it promises to deliver.
To ensure the paradigm shift of education is successful, one must understand the positive outcome for the student or professional. I like to walk back into this from the employer’s perspective. It is an appropriate starting point, which is why the education industry was created, helping companies find skilled students and professionals for workforce placement.
The real issue is that employers are the disconnect between schools and industry. There is a lack of communication between what employers need in terms of skills and what students learn in today’s education model. Another significant concern is there is no clear way of understanding or measuring people’s capabilities well into their careers. It is essential to identify this need for continued education, upskilling and reskilling purposes as job roles and responsibilities change rapidly due to constant innovation.
Let us face reality; it is unlikely that most college graduates will have the skills needed to make an immediate impact on their job without apprenticeships or internships in their school training.
I believe that rebuilding the education system based on academic credentials and workforce skills and building the link between education and employers is where the solution lies. How can this be done when education and industry define and measure these skills differently? This problem with cross-border acknowledgment of academic credentials for international students’ desire to further their education abroad or simply enter the global workforce. The problem is the lack of shared data used to define these skills and no universal language or output to express them. Ultimately, the most useful skills and knowledge students gain are through workforce experience.
Having a common language between education and industry can offer relevant, skill-based education for more students and professionals. This language will increase the chances of finding gainful employment, which, in turn, will increase the demand for continuing education and allow industries to benefit immediately from skill-based workers. How do we do this? By leveraging machine-learning to aggregate, define and connect education and workforce skills and find the common language that can speak to universal learners.
Once a common language is adopted, students can engage in meaningful work that fully leverages the skills acquired in their education. Equally, employers can finally articulate what they need and find the right candidate to fill the role.
Once we have a way for educational institutions and employers to communicate clearly, there will be an essential part of the story left, how can we speak this universal language with assurance? How can we make the connection between trust and verification? The solution relies heavily on blockchain technology. I will discuss this in my next blog post.