If recent shifts in the labor market have shown anything, it is that workers are no longer content to rest on their laurels. Nowadays, ‘variety is the spice of life’ is a mantra that many people appear to be putting at the heart of their career plans, with the pandemic setting these trends for employee satisfaction in motion.
Indeed, it is now typical for individuals to switch companies and seek new roles multiple times throughout their lives to lock down more appealing career opportunities. In fact, statistics show that six in ten millennials are open to new job opportunities, making them the most likely generation to switch jobs – so it is likely that we will see yet another increase in this trend when it comes to Gen Z.
Whether it is the promise of a pay rise, a change of scenery, or simply a company that is better aligned with an individual’s goals and values, it is clear that the workforce of today will stop at nothing to ensure that their career meets their requirements. Inevitably, this raises some real questions about current models of education and the suitability of a college system that ends for most people when they hit 21.
In today’s digitised economy, workers know that taking short courses and 1-day training seminars alone will not be enough to supplement their knowledge for the rest of their working lives. Indeed, a recent survey from Pearson has uncovered that many students around the world are questioning the place of traditional higher education – perhaps a new approach is in order.
Introducing the 60-year curriculum
This is where the concept of a ’60-year curriculum’ comes in. Simply put, this reflects a new educational model in which students take a series of courses and programmes throughout their lifetime so that their skills remain relevant in a highly competitive workforce, and so that they can keep securing the roles they are most interested in.
In practice, this would mean that learners enter in and out of different programmes and institutions throughout their careers in pursuit of lifelong learning, to gain new ‘micro-credentials’ or ‘mini-degrees’ that move with the student as they step into more senior roles, and help them to redeploy their skills into new industries and specialisms.
Unlike the traditional lecture hall and seminar-based set-up, in theory, there would be a variety of different ways for students to attend class –whether this is by dialling in on a Teams call, attending online lectures, or attending in-person for one or two days a week, which should open a whole new host of opportunities for individuals who may want to change things up as they progress up the career ladder.
The promise of tech for lifelong learning
As with any new approach to learning, the 60-year curriculum model raises major questions about the delivery of a lifelong education, that allows learners to flow seamlessly in and out of different programmes over the years. To achieve this, institutions and organizations must collaborate, emphasizing greater creativity, flexibility, and personalization when it comes to delivering courses that fit in with learners’ work lives.
One big change that institutions would be wise to implement is a robust content management system (CMS), that makes signing up to courses, looming deadlines, and seminar times easy to access at the click of a button. For many, balancing work and study is no simple task, so provisions must be in place to make lifelong learning a natural part of the day, and not just another task tacked on to a long day at the office.
Likewise, more investment must be made into improving online and hybrid learning initiatives, given that this will be the most convenient means of upskilling for most people alongside their working lives. Harnessing the latest and greatest in augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) will be a step in the right direction when it comes to bolstering engagement and offering an immersive experience, when students are not attending in-person. As these technologies mature, the feeling of being on-campus in a thriving scholarly environment will likely give learners the motivation they need to keep up with educational incentives in the long-term.
All in all, colleges and employers should no longer be in the business of simply ensuring that students are primed to succeed with one specific academic course alone. Moving forward, they must increasingly collaborate with employers and ensure that learners understand how they can reinvent themselves to sustain employment throughout their lives, or re-route as their needs change – and tech will play an important role in this.