It seems that the fourth industrial revolution – the big digital disruption – is now unfolding and, as revolutions tend to do, it is changing the way we live and work.
Disruptive changes to business models will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years, says the World Economic Forum, noting that it has been estimated that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist (World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs pdf).
“Many of the major drivers of transformation currently affecting global industries are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps,” it says.
All of this has major implications for higher education which, because it is made up of large institutions rooted in tradition, often lags behind – and with the best will in the world, finds it difficult to rapidly adapt and change.
Difficult, but not impossible.
There are many indicators that institutions have seen where things are heading and are responding in bright and innovative ways – as are many of their graduates and students.
At the UTS Business School, for example, entrepreneurship is one feature of its MBA offerings.
Roy Green, Business School dean, was quoted in The Australian Higher Education section this week as saying that 40 per cent of the university’s students now want an entrepreneurial component in their studies:
“They know that half of current jobs may not exist in 10 years’ time, so they have to be more agile and creative in the attributes they acquire. They also know they may not take a job with a large corporate, they may create it themselves.’’
Universities, he said, need to understand that an entrepreneurial education may be “more useful” than preparation for work in large organisations.
The article cited several students and graduates who, rather than take the traditional path of big business, had created their own start-up companies – a trend that looks set to continue.
The entrepreneurs and innovators appear to be starting even earlier the University of La Verne in California.
University Business reported that innovative students solved an issue surrounding digital signage at the college’s Wilson Library.
The library, said the report, wanted to develop a digital display to make students aware of library resources, as well as post information on school clubs and community events.
However, the cost was prohibitive and it was also discovered that most school libraries “were using solutions that required content updates to be made from a fixed work station, instead of the ability to update content remotely via smartphone or tablet”.
Christopher Ortiz, a student with a passion for technology, came up with a solution – one “that cost hundreds instead of thousands of dollars using open-source software and a Raspberry Pi – which meant that the Wilson Library now had its digital display and wouldn’t break the bank implementing it”.
But that was not all. A team of students was recruited to investigate whether or not Christopher’s innovation was suitable to go to the market.
The project involved the presentation of a complete business plan to Intel Capital for the purpose of receiving a grade, “which would qualify the group to be recognised as a company seeking institutional equity investors”.
The university has attached this program to its curriculum as part of its integrated business program “because it provided students a broad educational opportunity by successfully bringing together skill sets from several disciplines ranging from technology to accounting”.
Sounds like these young entrepreneurs will be ready for the new industrial revolution.