As entire new industries are created and traditional ones expand and contract significantly, the skills needed to keep up are evolving at a faster rate than ever before. Educators and higher education leaders must approach skills competency with a flexible growth mindset that will serve students well across the global, knowledge-based economy – and throughout their careers.

The Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data, released in June 2017, correlated areas of study with incomes at one year, three years and five years after graduation. Higher incomes are associated with traditional subjects such as medicine and dentistry, engineering and technology, law and banking. Universities take pride and market their wares on the basis of the high salaries of their graduates and, while focusing on traditional careers bolsters performance on LEO, is there a danger of looking backwards when talking of employment? Should universities be focusing on producing graduates for traditional jobs?

Much of the work graduates used to do is being digitised away – that is true even in medicine and engineering, and certainly in banking and the law. Roles for which university had been a preparation are thinning out, and few are able to rely on having a “job for life” in a secure profession or corporation. 

There is an undeniable need to train the next generation in emerging digital competencies and to be fluent in designing, developing or employing technology responsibly. At the same time, 21st-century students must learn how to approach problems from many perspectives, cultivate and exploit creativity, engage in complex communication, and leverage critical thinking.

With a future of work that is constantly evolving, these non-automatable “human” skills are foundational, and will only increase in value as automation becomes more mainstream.

Public-private partnerships focused on higher educational attainment and workforce development are a long-term investment in a vibrant economic future. Higher education is unique in its power to catalyse social mobility, serving to bridge social, economic, racial, and geographic divides like no other force. As job markets constantly evolve, it is clear that the future demands a system of higher education that is as dynamic and adaptable as the technologies around which our society now revolves.

Bridging the Gap

Through my work at the Hacklab Foundation, we have been innovating on new models to bridge the gap between industry and academia, by upskilling students before they graduate through extracurricular activities, such as our Remote Internship Program, National Digital Skills Training Programme in partnership with IBM.

The Hacklab Foundation is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Ghana with focus on preparing the youth for future digital jobs through technology education and skills development. We achieve this through bootcamps, hackathons, mentorship and coaching, internships, digital skills training and job placement.

Since our inception in 2015, we have directly impacted over 10,000 people, organized hackathons, robotics and coding bootcamps for kids between the ages of 7yrs – 13yrs, supported 500+ women in tech, 300+ youth were placed in jobs and 250+ youth were placed in internships. Through our partnership with IBM, we launched the Ghana National Digital Skills Training Program in November 2018, with a goal to reach a 100,000 people by 2021

We believe that creating an equal platform for everyone, irrespective of race, gender, social class, and physical limitations will allow for a fair chance to compete for the same opportunity. This has been at the core of our initiatives.

Our role in accelerating the future of work has become more important now more than ever as 95% of global learners are currently at home, with a majority struggling to adapt to new ways of learning, and the less marginalised, still facing challenges such as access to affordable internet connectivity and even more importantly computer devices at home.

While we are still debating the subject of whether digital education guarantees quality education, we are doing our best to reach the masses who may have access but lack direction, to guide them to building the right capability and connecting them to up to 300 remote internships and jobs already negotiated for.

Preparing for the New Normal – Are We Ready?

Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies said “Technology now allows people to connect anytime, anywhere, to anyone in the world, from almost any device. This is dramatically changing the way people work, facilitating 24/7 collaboration with colleagues who are dispersed across time zones, countries, and continents.

We must embrace our new normal, ready or not! It is time to rethink practicalizing the abstract conversations we have been having over the last 5 years regarding the Future of Work, 4th Industrial Revolution, and our new emerging work colleagues – Robots and AI.

Time to live and walk the talk!

About the Author

Foster Awintiti Akugri is the Founder & President of the Hacklab Foundation. He is currently the Incubator Manager for the Stanbic Bank Incubator Ghana (SBIncubator Ghana), an initiative of Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited, a member of the Standard Bank Group.
 
He was the youngest participant at the World Economic Forum’s 48th Annual Meeting, Davos, Switzerland in 2018. He also serves as a member of the Malaika Coalition, a committee mandated by the Africa Regional Strategy Group of the World Economic Forum to work on the Africa 4.0 Initiative. He also serves on the Africa Growth Platform Working Group and was part of the team that lead the Digital Campaign Launch of the Platform during the World Economic Forum on Africa – Cape Town in September 2019.
 
He was listed among 30 under 30 Future of Ghana Pioneers Class of 2019. Also named Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leader Class of 2019 by the Policy Center for the Global South, Morocco. In 2019, he was also named amongst Top 100 Most Influential Young Ghanaians and Top 4 Most Influential Young Ghanaians in Science & Technology by Avance Media. He also received the President’s Outstanding Youth Prize in Science and Technology in 2019 by the Millennium Excellence Foundation. In 2020, He was listed amongst Top 50 Young CEOs in Ghana by Avance Media.
 
He is a public speaker focusing on leadership, technology, entrepreneurship, smart industries, ecosystem development, digital transformation, education, youth engagement models and Concept of the African Dream. He is a 2x TEDx Speaker and has delivered over 40 keynotes. 

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