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Universities need to change so students learn to keep up with the world

Students need to be taught to be entrepreneurial and creative, not just the content in the syllabus. from www.shutterstock.com.au

Universities need to change so students learn to keep up with the world

A recent report from the Foundation of Young Australians said that between 60-70% of our students are being educated in jobs that won’t exist by the time they graduate.

With a future that is not yet imaginable, how do universities prepare graduates for the world of work?

Universities need to teach enterprising skills

One recommendation in the report is to build a 21st-century workforce by

placing enterprising skills at the heart of learning.

The upcoming shifts listed in the report challenge our universities to develop greater numbers of entrepreneurial graduates. Entrepreneurial education should by no means be limited to business faculties. A robust discipline-based education can also foster entrepreneurial capacity in students.

Given our universities are educating for jobs that will no longer exist, how can we future-proof our education in this rapidly changing age? The managing director of a private education provider focused on entrepreneurship, Jack Delosa, said in a YouTube segment that there is a skills gap between what the market needs and what universities are educating for. He said universities aren’t developing students who are adaptable to change or innovative.

An entrepreneurial education cultivates less tangible skills associated with an entrepreneurial mindset. These include the capacity to tolerate failure, self-awareness and the ability to act courageously and take risks.

Universities wishing to design curricula that build entrepreneurial capabilities face two main challenges. First, measurable learning outcomes are required to ensure accreditation with the Higher Education Standards Framework. Second, there is the increasing focus on scalability as student numbers continue to climb.

The existence of these two challenges falls in direct conflict with educational elements that will foster the core skills of innovation and creativity, which are at the heart of an entrepreneurial education.

Universities aren’t teaching students to be innovative and creative. from www.shutterstock.com

To unleash our students’ entrepreneurial skills, universities must move away from measuring academic success according to rigid marking criteria. They should focus on learning through experience and the cycle of failure inherent in creative endeavours. Rather than defining measurable learning outcomes, curricula should support aspirational outcomes that ignite lifelong learning and encourage inquiry beyond the classroom.

Universities must also get comfortable with the idea of providing an education focused on the whole person rather than only acquiring discipline-specific knowledge and skills. This has been accomplished at Stanford University where students undertake “missions not majors”.

Under this model students are assisted in developing the “why” – their purpose for undertaking their studies. There is also an explicit recognition of the value of broad skills. A whole person education is critically important because the pathways between school, university and employment are no longer defined and adaptability is key for an uncertain job market.

When students can articulate their reason for study this helps them to gain a sense of meaning through their acquired experience. Understanding their purpose helps to build the confidence necessary to sustain them through uncertainty.

Students need to change their outlook

While financial and digital literacy are no doubt important in the future of work, the art of entrepreneurial education is cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset. This can only be accomplished through self-empowered students. Today’s students need to be prepared to actively create their own futures by thinking and acting more entrepreneurial throughout their university education.

One of my undergraduate students founded a community “biohacking” space promoting greater public engagement with biology. The process of founding his own social enterprise showed the importance of engaging with a community beyond university to successfully start his enterprise.

Some university students are relying too heavily on acquiring academic skills rather than actively taking their future into their own hands.

The Centre for Creative Leadership 70:20:10 Model for learning and development shows that students need to engage broadly for effective learning. This model suggests that 70% of development occurs through the actions of the individual, 20% through relationships and only 10% through classroom learning and reading.

Students have to build connections in a world where “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Bennett Merriman, young entrepreneur and director of a workforce management company, told a recent higher education conference that connectivity in our work place is important. He recommended that students should spend time developing their networks throughout their studies.

An entrepreneurial education provides a unique educational mix that builds the capacity of students to thrive in a complex world. Integrating the elements from entrepreneurship education into other educational domains offers students the gift of seeing an opportunity and understanding how to take it.

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