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July 30th, 2014 at 4:59 pm

‘Micro-colleges’ will educate the workforce of the future: Futurist Thomas Frey

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The world has a shortage of 18 million teachers.

Dell’s Center for Entrepreneurs took to the Rockies, sponsoring an event at the Innovation Pavilion in Centennial, Colorado. Former IBM engineer and noted futurist Thomas Frey addressed a gathering of business leaders, entrepreneurs and community members on an issue he says is increasingly impacting the labor force: With the ever-increasing pace of innovation, traditional colleges and universities are failing to train and retrain workers quickly enough.

 

 

The model of two and four-year degrees, he says, is largely incompatible with an industry that gets flipped on its head every couple of quarters.

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“We have a huge need for some other way of getting people in the world educated,” Frey said. “We need to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist using technology that hasn’t been invented to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

No doubt, a tall order, but Frey believes it’s a challenge we can collectively meet.

Teacherless classroom

Frey says he was once approached by Google to collaborate on a project to deliver educational resources to Africa. The search giant recognized that one of the biggest obstacles had been that teachers simply didn’t want to come to the continent.

With this in mind, the notion of a teacherless classroom became more and more intriguing. It wouldn’t be without precedent, Frey noted. There are already media aggregators and automation services that enable organizations to generate editorial content on autopilot. Could similar technology be leveraged to deliver educational content?

The world has a shortage of 18 million teachers, Frey said. He noted that a full 23 percent of all children grow up without an education.

“With the changing pace of technology today, if we continue to have to insert a teacher between us and everything that we need to learn in the future, we can’t possibly stay competitive,” Frey said. “Somehow we need to make this far more efficient.”

Disappearing jobs and micro-colleges

The main factor driving change in the labor force is new innovations rendering old jobs obsolete, but no mechanism is in place yet to help workers grow at the pace of evolving technology, according to Frey.

He cites “the level problem” as an example of how new technology can erode entire labor ecosystems overnight. “Once you can download a level app on your smartphone, suddenly you no longer have a need for that tool,” Frey said.

There would no longer be a need for people to make products such as aluminum frames or small glass bulbs, he said.

“And you don’t need someone to assemble it,” he added. “You don’t need the retail stores to carry it.”

When a user downloads an app, a part of a job disappears. “It’s a tiny piece but it’s a piece nonetheless,” Frey said.

This dynamic works both ways. For example, in the wake of Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift, the amount of job postings for virtual reality designers skyrocketed, but firms have had trouble filling the positions because relatively few professionals have the requisite skill sets.

The solution to this conundrum isn’t to stifle innovation; instead, Frey believes that the workers of the future — as early as 2030 — will need to retool their careers as many as six times throughout their lives. That isn’t possible through conventional universities, but he believes micro-colleges such as DaVinci Coders, which offers programming training, are stepping in to fill the gap.

“We need to create systems for re-employing people at a far faster rate than ever before,” Frey said. “Jobs are going to transition in lots of different ways that we don’t even understand yet, and we need to prepare for that.”

Via Tech Page One

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