In my generation, we grew up knowing that a college degree was the basic requirement for getting a good job. If you missed out on one, then the chances of success would diminish significantly, which is why we had to work hard to go to college.
However, a lot has changed over the last decade and now, even the college degree offers no guarantees. Back in the 70s and perhaps even 80s, the expectation was that a four-year degree would most certainly guarantee a successful career spanning 20+ years. Top that with a masters program, and you probably doubled your career to 40+ years.
Now, the only thing that seems to guarantee continued success in the job market is continuous learning. Technological advances have made it so tricky that now, we are not talking about machines replacing blue collar jobs, but rather, intelligent systems are now taking over in the white-collar job market. This means that for people to keep up with the rapid changes in the job market, then evolution is a must. We must evolve through continuous learning, re-inventing ourselves to adapt to the changes in the job market.
The question that many have asked though is whether educational institutions are equally equipped to adapt to these changes by preparing their students in the right way. In some countries, students are still being taught using that old format that presumed the 18 years spent in school would be enough to provide students with careers spanning 40+ years.
Yet in general terms, the education and learning market is beginning to evolve in a bid to meet the demands of the modern job market. Now, we are seeing institutions like Oxford Summer School in the UK offering continuous learning programs and courses for a variety of age groups. This is not being done just to try to get students up and running in the job market after they graduate. it is a system that prepares students to adjust to the market environment as changes take effect.
Education and evolution
Educational institutions are adapting their curricula in such a way that students are prepared to embrace change as it comes in the job market and this is effectively done starting as early as possible. A quick perusal of Oxford Summer School’s website shows that age groups start at as low as 8-12, all the way to 19-25 years.
The speed at which modern schools are adapting to the advances in technology could help bridge the gap that exists between coursework and what is required in the job market. Schools are now using technology to distribute learning materials, create virtual learning environments that transcend national and continental borders. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are a good example of these developments with leading institutions like Harvard and MIT already championing this new trend.
This trend has contributed to the rapid gain in the stocks of companies operating in the education sector with Grand Canyon Education (LOPE) gaining more than 230% since February 2016 while its counterpart, New Oriental Education (EDU) is up 185%. Clearly, the demand for better education is on the rise, and this mirrors the standards that the job market requires based on emerging technologies and the need for continuous learning.
AI and Machine learning
In the current job market, artificial intelligence threatens to take over nearly all administrative jobs. Advances in this revolutionary technology have continued to disrupt several markets, including education, where AI is growing at a CAGR of 47%. And with one of its main arms, machine learning demonstrating that it could one day become smarter than man, there is great concern about what the future holds for education and jobs. Will the jobs that current students are being prepared to do still be available by the time they graduate? That is the hard question many are asking.
A lot is changing so fast that keeping up with the pace requires constant evolution, and that’s why educational institutions continue to encourage continuous learning. Now, we even have special MBAs for executives, special post-graduate diplomas, and these, according to research, are playing a crucial role in the current job market than earning a Ph.D.
In summary, the gap that exists between educational curricula and the requirements for the job market is beginning to shrink as educational institutions adapt to technological advances while societies embrace continuous learning. This is working well for the education sector as demonstrated by the performances of the two stocks highlighted in this article.
However, the long-term challenge created by the threat of machines taking over the job market, this time for good, still exists as computer applications like machine learning continue to make artificial intelligence systems smarter.