Are organisations the universities of the future?

Many organisations are becoming de facto tertiary educators to meet the fast-changing skills requirements of their industries. Will they become the universities of the future?

There was a time in the not so distant past when organisations wouldn’t consider an employment candidate unless they had a degree under their belt. In line with default tradition and faith in higher education, the pathway for candidates was always the same: University. Degree. Then career.

That is changing. Organisations across the globe are now waking up to the idea that, though higher education provides their employees with a theoretical knowledge that is of strong value, there are other ways skills can be acquired – and potential other pathways through which to get them.

Could organisations become the universities of the future?

 

Going higher with future hires

The higher apprenticeship model has been growing in recent years. With huge brand name organisations like Google, Apple and others declaring they no longer require a degree to get a job, other modes of skill recognition as well as higher apprenticeships are moving to the fore.

What is a higher apprenticeship? An integrated program of structured training and paid work, leading to a VET or higher education qualification at the Australian Qualifications Framework level 5 (diploma) or above, which may or may not be undertaken as a contract of training.
Higher apprenticeships in Australia: What are we talking about?, NCVER, 2019

Higher apprenticeships seek to eliminate perceived skills gaps by cultivating talent from the outset. By learning (and getting paid) on the job, supplemented by formal training, higher apprenticeship graduates emerge having already added value at the coalface, and fully equipped to do more.

For human resources departments and organisational teams, it allows them to:

    • Select for people – They can select for the traits and qualities they want in recruits at an early stage, based on their record of achievement and activities through school and in the community. This could be for skills like communication and curiosity, passion for an industry, a record of volunteering, and more.
    • Develop for skills – Organisations can take control of skills development to become leading actors in the strategic education pathway design. From hard to soft skills, they are able to combine formal learning with their own programs and projects to develop skills that can be used in the world right now.
    • Cultivate for culture – Companies can invite younger learners to become a part of the culture of an organisation from the beginning, utilising their learning and interaction with peers and managers to cultivate genuine engagement and commitment, setting them up as long-term positive contributors to culture.
    • Plan for the future – The skills needs of organisations are changing fast. Higher apprenticeships give them a chance to grow people and skills within a more agile learning and development framework, to facilitate the development of a workforce fit for the needs of the strategic future, not just the urgent present.

 

Universities of the future?

Organisations will become more than employers in future. With calls for them to invest more in employee education and training – through training younger people and facilitating lifelong learning to keep employee skills up to date – their capacity as developers of people will need to grow.

This can be facilitated through closer partnerships with education and training providers. Through collaboration across the employee lifecycle – from early higher apprenticeships to other stages of workforce development – employers and educators will work in tandem to develop people.

However they will need to ensure the development they provide is broad, so they don’t end up creating crimped professionals with narrow world views. Industry young professionals groups, secondments, mentoring, education partnerships and on-demand digital training and all help.