This special report published by the Economist in January 2017 couldn’t explain better the dynamics at play today in the connection between education and employment.
There is a huge crack in the current educational system as the report eloquently shows and a new world of opportunities to re-invent learning is presenting in front of us.
The current media lens is focused on the on-line platforms and how people are dropping out of school to learn by themselves and how Universities are embracing technology to enable learning anywhere but MOOCs alone can’t solve the problem (although we believe must be part of the solution). Take the now famous Andrew Ng Machine Learning course for example: 8 million people have registered to the course in the past 6 years and they are now asking themselves “is it enough to take the course to get a job as a Data Scientist?”. You can read some of the answers to this question here but you would easily guess that is hardly a distinguishing trait and companies would probably want to know more about the real projects you’ve delivered. They want someone who can “hit the ground running” so to speak and not having to train a skilled worker to apply what they have learned in a real corporate environment.
Ok, now you’ve taken some courses on-line AND you’ve had some on-the-job experience. You’re golden! Your life is easier than most and you just going to keep getting better and better at that specific skill and you’re going to get a better pay because of that. Well, sort of …
The reality is that someone somewhere has invented a new framework or a new language that allows you to get twice the performance in half the time or resources and that’s the new hot thing and those who know that framework or language are getting hired faster and at a higher pay-level then yours. Ops! What do I do? I have a job and I’m getting really good at this: I can’t go back to school, perhaps this new framework won’t get real traction and is just a trend. Probably better to stay put and hope it won’t take off.
The truth is that this cycle is happening all the time and at a growing speed and the only thing wrong about it is the linear model of education that forces millions of professionals into this dilemma:
I carefully choose what and where to study
I spend a fortune to get the best degree at the best school
I get a top job and start to earn better-then-average wage and start to recover my education investment
When the skills you’ve invested so much time and money in are getting obsolete so fast as is the case today, then is time to re-think this model.
“Technological change demands stronger and more continuous connections between education and employment” — Andrew Palmer
We at The AI Academy believe that Lifelong Learning is an healthier and more productive approach, The Economist is calls it an economic imperative. If learning could be more like going to the gym, people will have a way to fit this activity in their daily schedules and continuously acquire new skills AND applying those skills in their jobs. Learning is not something you do before you get a job (or in between jobs), but is something you do concurrently with your job. A new framework or language comes up? No problem: I can focus the next weeks or months to pick that up at my “brain gym”. This way is no longer a trade-off but a natural complement, no longer a heavy investment in time and money but something you can easily plan in your budget.
We at The AI Academy also believe that to enable this new approach we need to dramatically change (yes, you could say “disrupt”) the business model for education. To follow the “brain gym” paradigm it should be designed like a membership (or subscription): you would pay an annual fee and have access to any of the courses available at the gym. This way you don’t have to make big investments in something that might get obsolete soon. But this is perhaps a topic for a future post …