Last week I had the pleasure of chairing a panel discussion at the Bett Show, where Pearson discussed how developments in technology affect the workplace and as a result, what is now required from higher education graduates.
It was a great opportunity to bring together a recent Pearson College London graduate, James Wright, who is a Senior Associate at Carmichael Fisher; and a representative from the technology industry, Nuno Guara, Head of Corporate Affairs at Cisco. We were also joined by my colleague, Rebecca Mamelli, Head of Higher Education Research and Qualifications at Pearson.
As a recent graduate, James gave an insight to his experience of how technology was used, both in the delivery of his higher education, and technology skills he gained whilst obtaining his degree. Although he saw some technology used during his education at degree level - such as the use of the VLE and the ability to access lectures online - his belief is that technology is often not a priority for lecturing staff, as their skills often lie in other areas.
James’ view was that students need to come out of education already equipped with technology skills needed at work; skills as sending emails, or using conference calls. He further identified that working closer with industry could give educators a better insight into what students are going to need when they enter employment.
Nuno confirmed this statement saying that graduates, despite their qualification, often do not have all the skills to go into employment. He went on to identify the skills that employers are looking for in addition to technology skills and knowledge, which included:
- motivation and inspiration;
- good communication skills;
- passion; and
- the ability to work independently.
“Employers want people who can adapt, learn new skills, have self confidence and can learn on the job. But employers also want a balance of tech skills too.”
Nuno added that the developments such as AI, VR and big data are all important influencers which students need to be aware of. James was able to concur with this point - working in executive search, James noted the increased use of AI - and in the global information environment, the increasing need for cyber security.
My colleague, Rebecca, works on the design of BTEC Higher National qualifications, liaising with industry professionals in this process. Rebecca spoke about how we can bridge that gap between employers and higher education, by seeking advice from industry experts to develop qualifications and often working alongside them in the education design and development.
An example of such collaboration can be the work we completed with the BMW Group, resulting in a development of BTEC Higher National Certificate in Manufacturing Operations. BMW Group were involved in the creation of this qualification from the beginning, ensuring that graduates are fully prepared for employment in this area.
Rebecca also remarked on BTEC Higher Nationals in the construction industry, where Pearson are focusing on developing Higher National graduate’s technical skills in units such as Building Information Modeling.
What I found especially interesting was Rebecca’s point that technology is an influencer, not only in skills connect, but in terms of learning technology; developing more opportunities for students to engage with their learning through online, blended and distance learning opportunities.
Developing education opportunities which develop a broader range of students knowledge and behaviours in how they interact with technology is vital - seeing technology as an enabler rather than an end in itself.
It’s the human skills such as judgement and decision making, complex problem solving, active learning strategies and behaviours like patience, persuasion and resilience, that are the future of work. These skills, supplemented by technology, are the answer to the needs of industry.
I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with James, Nuno and Rebecca to discuss the issues of technology in education and employment. It re-confirmed to me the need to work with industry to identify their needs and inform the content of our qualifications - something that we recognise as a key activity at Pearson.
As the technology transformation continues at Pearson, we’re also looking for ways technology can support more flexible and accessible learning models. Last year we launched HN Online - a set of resources to enable the delivery of BTEC Higher Nationals through a blend of online and classroom learning. HN Online is now available for BTEC HNC in Business but more qualifications will follow soon.