Forbes has called it the Fourth Industrial Revolution — a time of exponential growth and unfathomable integration of technology into our everyday lives. We are in the era of automation and artificial intelligence. As data from the United Nations shows, since 2012, more people in the world have access to mobile phones than they do basic sanitation. Evolution in technology has paved the way for new ways of living, doing business, communicating with one another, learning, and working. Our global landscape has shifted tremendously in the last two decades, and the pace of change is only accelerating, whether we are ready for it or not. It is a time like nothing we have seen before.
The closest period in history we saw that was similar to this time of accelerated change was the transition from an agriculture-focused economy to an industrial economy during the early 20th century. The industrial revolution saw a shift from agrarian societies into urban ones dependent on steam-powered machines and coal for many aspects of life. That era was a significant period of education and re-training for workers as they had to learn to operate in a manufacturing environment, a significant shift from the skills they needed to maintain farms. However, this period also allowed many workers to retire while new entrants came in and took on the new jobs that required different skills.
The difference today is that the re-training, and upskilling, which is a focus on continuous learning in the workplace, is constant. Fuelling that new trend is concerns about how innovations in technology will be affecting the job market with 14% of the global workforce expected to be required to switch occupational categories and widely-held views that skills are the currency of the new economy. Furthermore, as McGowan and Andrews found in their report on the skill mismatch in the Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, more than one in four workers perceive their skillset to be a mismatch to the needs and qualifications required for their current job.
The transformative change of the Fourth Industrial Revolution promises the ability to reach much higher levels of productivity, further expansion into global markets, and tools to communicate with many more consumers through digital narratives. However, to fulfill these promises, we cannot rely on artificial intelligence alone. Human beings, our human resources, need to be ready and prepared to compliment advancements elsewhere. With the pace of change in technology and the workplace accelerating, people need to plan for change and adoption continually. This consistent requirement to “upskill” has pushed many workers to become life-long learners having re-train constantly mid-career.
In the past, and albeit not that long ago, many people would spend four years, on average, obtaining an undergraduate degree at the start of their career. That degree would allow them to enter the job market, and once they were in, they would be able to adequately navigate the shifts in their sector as the change was limited and slow to be implemented. This created job security from the education obtained at the start of one’s career. However, with the workforce changing and expectations of the labour market shifting, our approach to education, learning, and development also have to look different.
Adult learners and displaced workers continue to be the most under-served market in post-secondary education, further heightened by the need to re-train workers mid-career and shift to new jobs that do not yet exist. These conditions create a need for more flexible, practical, and shorter-term learning options for adult learners. This constant need to “upskill” means that adults will be seeking education and training throughout their careers, and not just at the start of their professional life. Enter Private Career Colleges (PCC). PCCs offer the kind of education option that is crucial during the age of automation and all things digital.
Here are the top three reasons why PCCs are ideal for adult learners during the Fourth Industrial Revolution:
1. Flexible learning schedules: With the reality of having to upskill regularly, the training offering needs to work with the rest of one’s life, including career, family, and other responsibilities. A flexible learning schedule will allow workers to prepare for the next industry trend and skills needed without pausing their current careers. Furthermore, PCCs offer enrollment at many different times during the year. Therefore, not having to wait until the Fall term or January to enroll in a program means that learners can upskill in a timelier manner.
2. Compressed programs that deliver training over a short time period: There will be a shift in demographics of the post-secondary education population as a higher number of adult learners return for more education mid-career. This new population will need education programs that do not compromise their career, ability to fulfill other financial commitments, or family.
3. Focus is on practical training instead of research: Upskilling during the age of automation requires immediate application of those skills in the workplace. As such, there is a greater need for practical learning instead of research and theory-based learning. PCCs focus their learning on training and immediate, real-life application of that training.
With the World Economic Forum expecting that over half of current workers will need to upskill by 2022, the time to re-think education for adult learners is now. We have entered an era where those who regularly update their skills and invest in new training are considered more valuable than those with more years of experience. By 2028, we can expect the demand for digital skills only to increase even though it has already multiplied by over 60% in the last several years. Fortunately, PCCs, with its training focused learning, flexible schedules, and compressed program formats that deliver value immediately, are well-suited to support learning during this age of change.
Adult learners who are upskilling mid-career and mid-age have unique needs. This under-served market will only require more attention in the coming years. Their ability to get educated for changing times has an impact on all areas of their lives, and our economy. As Malcolm X says, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Muraly Srinarayanathas has over 20 years of international business experience in manufacturing, travel, real estate, telecommunications, and most recently education. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Computek College, a leading private career college, based in Toronto, Ontario, dedicated to providing practical learning for new Canadians to become employed.