Educating students for workforce demands: Are we up to the challenge?
Students of today face a challenging future of joining a workforce that demands certain skills. These same students look toward our educational system to assist them in meeting this challenge.
At the same time, employers face the challenge in their search for qualified employees to join their organization with industry-related skills. Today’s employers also demand that potential employees be well educated, have global knowledge, be innovative and possess technological skills.
In today’s economy, shareholders are a key driver of company performance, which increases performance expectation of company employees. Another challenge is an aging workforce who may require additional training to update skill sets to meet changing business needs. With all of these challenges, we must ask ourselves: Can the educational system meet these demands?
It’s fair to say that the critical role of education is constantly pushed by the constant pace of technological advancements and the global economy. It’s also impacted by employer and shareholder demand for a strong workforce that has the capacity to communicate, lead, problem solve, collaborate and more. Within this context, the workforce development and educational systems must be hands-on and play a collaborative role in the development of human capital that is continuous throughout an employee’s career.
Ultimately, another question arises: Does our educational system offer the necessary and rigorous training needed to prepare our students for today’s global workforce and continuous training throughout the course of a career?
Recent educational progress
As an educator this is not an easy question to answer with a simple yes or no. Certainly there are numerous strides currently being made in the school system, at all grade levels. Particularly at the high school level, seniors are filling their final year of high school with global related college coursework and language classes offered in Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. More secondary schools are recognizing the importance of this effort and are collaborating with high schools to meet global workforce demands.
There’s currently a high demand in the field of engineering, mathematics, manufacturing and technology. To answer this need, there are new programs at the middle-school and high-school level that are designed to help students prepare for a science-related career. These programs aim to excite students about careers in these critical fields and assist them in understanding the basics.
Depending on the industry, there’s a demand for a skilled workforce that does not require a college degree; yet on-the-job training would be required. Even when a position does not require post-secondary training, employees must be focused on updated training on new technologies throughout their careers. Whether formally or informally acquired, life-long learning programs will certainly be a necessity for the majority of employers across many industries.
Just as today’s companies demand employees who are innovative and knowledgeable, we as educators have to demand this of ourselves. Our educational system needs to constantly be on the cutting edge of how we can best educate our students for today’s workforce at every level of education.