STEM Foundation

How education is being shaped by the future of jobs

Inventing the Future press coverage in Factor-Tech.

The job demands of the future are going to require us all to be technologists, meaning education needs to become more practical, flexible and challenging, according to UK think tank New Engineering Foundation (NEF).

In a report released on Wednesday entitled ‘Inventing the Future’, the organisation highlighted a need for “urgent transformation” to tackle the increasing presence of technology in almost every job.

In an interview with Factor, report lead author and NEF founder and CEO Professor Sa’ad Medhat explained the importance of technology.

“We are really strongly and seriously advocating that every one of us is going to be, in the future, a technologist,” he said.

Medhat explained how technology would have an impact on every field, and that being able to adapt and change to new developments was essential to future work success.

“The technologist is a generic occupation that it brings that traversability, that intraoperability, that ability to embrace different contexts and different situations and tackle different situations,” he said.

He said that this would have a key impact on what students need to learn before entering the workforce, explaining how what university-level students learn now is what students aged 17-18 will need to learn in the future.

“You wouldn’t appoint anybody today unless they have the full digital knowledge of using all the associated office automation and beyond, and a bit of social media, and a bit of coding,” he said.

“This is expected; it’s the norm. It’s no longer nice to have. So the whole thing would be compressed even further.”

To tackle this, Medhat and the NEF are proposing significant changes to the UK’s education system, with the reintroduction of polytechnic institutions.

The original polytechnics were mostly established in the 1960s, and were to technical, professional and practical occupations what universities are to academia. However, these institutions have since been converted into universities, leading many to move away from practical, hands-on subjects.

These new polytechnics would be regional, and offer courses based on the current skills needs in those areas. Curriculums would be ever evolving according to current technology and trends, and would provide flexible training tailored to each student.

In order to fund these institutions, Medhat has proposed that they be largely crowd sourced, with businesses funding courses that they needed people to be trained in.

“Using the concept of the Indiegogo and the Kickstarter philosophy if you like, the LEP [local enterprise partnership, the UK’s regional partnerships between business and government] will provide the baseline, so if you need a facility in advanced manufacturing, or a biotech facility, and it will cost a few million pounds, let’s say the LEP will put the baseline funding of £1m and say ok, if you want these skills here, you can be part of that funding mechanism, you can influence that programme development and you are part and parcel of this,” explained Medhat.

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