Universities

Universities are failing graduates and the economy

“Higher education is supposed to provide society with a reliable workforce. Today it does not perform this basic function,” according to entrepreneur and former Dragon James Caan CBE.

“From the global AI skills shortage to the brain drain crippling US semiconductor production, universities are increasingly unable to generate the skills the world desperately needs.”

“Instead of offering an ever-growing selection of stupid, pointless and expensive courses, universities should focus on their civic duty; supporting the economy and preparing society for the future we are heading towards.

“The world and the workplace are changing at an exponential rate, and it is clear that the education system is failing to keep up. In the UK, GCSEs, A-levels and university curricula date back more than half a century, resulting in a disconnect between the theoretical curriculum and its practical application in the modern workplace.

“For context, A levels were established in 1951, the same year the first VCR was created. These older education systems were created to prepare graduates for the job industry at the time, in the pre-internet and pre-automation era. Today, students themselves have little confidence that going to university will adequately prepare them for work.

“In the United States, research found that 2019 graduates were delaying their entry into the labor market, with 62% planning to take jobs in another sector because the ones they had chosen were saturated. Additionally, only 11% of business leaders think graduates are well-equipped for the job market, while only 14% of Americans strongly believe the opposite.

“Similarly, research shows a mismatch between what employers want in graduates and what is taught in higher education institutions. While universities focus on providing practical and professional skills, employers seem to put more emphasis on soft skills such as interpersonal skills, personal values, ethics, in addition to more generic skills.

“Today we have an oversaturated workplace of students who can analyze the cultural significance of a Netflix show, but hardly any of them can program a neural network in an AI application. AI is the ‘one of the industries that promises to transform industries worldwide. However, a survey found that while 93% of UK and US companies see AI as a business priority, more than half (51%) admit that they don’t have the right mix of AI skills in-house.”

“Similarly, the shortage of semiconductors in the United States is hurting American competitiveness and hampering growth. Beyond supply chain and raw material issues, a severe labor shortage threatens to stall semiconductor production until 2022. 67% of North American manufacturing companies and 63% of European companies say the inability to recruit staff is hampering production.

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“The disconnect created by higher education will only widen, as technology advances and teachers struggle to catch up. Essentially, universities must take the lead in giving graduates practical and technical skills that respond directly to employer demand.

“Countries prosper and succeed based on how well they educate their people. Singapore is an excellent example; the country has an education system ranked among the top 20 in the world, with a curriculum focused on more practical and in-demand subjects.

“Economic giants like the United States stand to lose $1 trillion by 2030 as manufacturing skills decline significantly. This talent shortage will likely lead to a brain drain, as a new generation of workers may not wanting and potentially not being skilled enough to take over, despite the industry’s significant contribution to the economy.Although more traditional 9 to 5 jobs in industries such as medicine and engineering are still oversaturated of graduates who are not properly equipped to enter the job market.

“Creating courses that truly reflect current and future societal needs should be a priority. Governments should invest more in institutions that promote skills development and provide students with a wide range of transferable skills to encourage their flexibility.

“Giving tax breaks to universities that implement better methods of producing qualified graduates could also encourage their cooperation.”

“Higher education institutions should also focus more on ‘soft skills’ and industries such as technology, cybersecurity and other non-traditional jobs that we increasingly rely on. As industries change, Deloitte notes that these skills will continue to evolve into the next century. »

“In collaboration with companies, a combination of theory and practice including apprenticeships and internships during their studies could bring about a fundamental change in education systems.”

“Essentially, universities would take on the responsibility of not only educating, but also training students. It is not only memory and research skills that should characterize education. Instead, universities should teach students to “learn to learn” and foster soft and hard skills that are relevant to today’s society, not the skills that society needed half a century ago. -century.

“The basic requirement is a system that prioritizes student outcomes – during and after their studies – and further guarantees their job security in society. A better education system that produces employable graduates will lead to a more sustainable economy. The strength of our economies rests on the strength of our education system. Under the current status quo, we can expect the government’s record to remain firmly in the red.

James Caan CBE, entrepreneur and former Dragon

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