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Education and Workforce: Aligning Schools With Workforce of the Future

Education and workforce: How are schools acting now to help prepare the workforce of the future?

Connecting education and workforce is key to the any company’s competitiveness. Now pressure is mounting on schools to align better with industry to better prepare students for tomorrow’s jobs — in other words, the workforce of the future.

For more on the future of education and the workforce, see our transcript and podcast with Chris Whittle, whose new Whittle School & Studio aims to reform the institutionalized, one-size-fits-all approach and make relevant, flexible, and personalized education at scale around the world. 

Education and Workforce

There’s a gap in the expectations business leaders and educators have about how to prepare students for the complexities they will face when they enter the workforce, according to a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Business-Higher Education Forum.

Aligning schools with the future needs of the workforce has long been a source of tension between industry and the education field. The study, reported widely recently in the technology news, found some alarming trends that demonstrate the gap in perspective:

  • Among K-12 teachers, just 10 percent are confident in their ability to infuse their teaching with higher-level technologies. The results held true across grade levels, teacher experience and school affluence. Respondents indicating extremely high or high levels of confidence reached no higher than 17 percent for their teaching abilities in technologies ranging from graphic, app and web design to computer programming and engineering.
  • While schools offer some basic technology courses, the numbers overall are low. The percentage of schools offering specific courses is:
    • Computer fundamentals (80 percent)
    • Graphic design (66 percent)
    • Engineering design/CAD (63 percent)
    • Web design (59 percent)
    • Robotics (58 percent)
    • Computer programming (54 percent)
    • App design/creation (35 percent)
    • Data analytics (20 percent)
  • Sixty percent of technology use in classrooms is passive.
  • Sixty-four percent of teachers believe there should be more emphasis placed on teaching technology.
  • Students lack access to technology at home with 40 percent of teachers reporting some students do not have access to devices, and 50 percent do not have access to the internet. The percentages are more severe for underserved schools.

Workforce of the Future

These data points are not in sync with some of the key needs expressed in recent business leadership surveys on workforce education. PwC’s latest CEO survey reports that 77 percent of all jobs will require some technological component by 2020. Among those CEOs surveyed, 79 percent express concern with a lack of potential employees with adequate technical skills.

The gap issues are not limited to primary education. One study indicated that 50 percent of knowledge gained in the first year of college technical study will be outdated by graduation.

While some colleges monitor trends and have advisory boards of industry leaders that help guide them in curricular decisions, the gaps persist. A study by STEMConnector identified five crucial gaps in technology education:

  • Fundamental skills. Basic math, creative and complex problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability are critical.
  • Belief. Too many students, especially those in the middle, do not believe that STEM careers are appropriate. They get discouraged and are overlooked by teachers. However, employees are necessary at many different levels and with different skill sets to meet the growing demand.
  • Postsecondary education. Candidate credentials are often misaligned with industry needs, leading to a lack of qualified candidates for technology jobs.
  • Geography. Availability of skilled workforces often plays a role in where companies choose to open for business. But gaps remain and persist the lack of opportunity in poorer areas.
  • Demographics. The number of women, people of color, and those from low-income backgrounds pursuing STEM careers continues to be low.

As the data show, workforce education and the need for qualified workers with technical skills is high — and it’s imperative for educators and business leaders to work together to bridge all the gaps.