Of all until now, universities have provided the society with a safe way to gamble with the future, by encouraging innovative research and development that may not have apparent short-term benefits, without incurring major social or commercial loss. Another most important lesson we learn at college is the ability to challenge the assumptions and positions of powerful agencies outside the university. There is a risk in tying university and college programs too closely to immediate labor market needs.The demands in the Labor Market can shift haphazardly, and specifically,in a knowledge-based society, it is impossible to judge what kinds of businesses or trades will emerge in the future.
Nevertheless, the rapid development in higher education and the very large sums invested in learning is largely driven by government, employers and parents wanting a work-force that is competitive,employable and preferably affluent. Indeed, the universities have always been persuasive about this one role, which started as preparation and training for the church, then the law and much later, the government administration.
Physiognomiesof some knowledge-based workers
For a knowledge-based economy to run efficaciously and effortlessly, it would require people who are focused and motivated towards contributing numbers in the expansion of theknowledge-based economy. Such knowledge-based workers are determined and have distinguished characteristics,
- Theyusually work in small companies, mostly startups.
- They often work on contractual basis, or as part-time workers, so they move around from one job to another fairly frequently.
- They sometimes are entrepreneurs and are their own bosses; sometimes they have created their own job, which didn’t exist until they worked out that there was a need and they could strive to meet that need.
- They are adaptable to the digital advancements and are competent digitally; digital technology is a key component of their work contributing to the business.
- There are constant changes in the nature of their work, typically based on response to market and technological developments and thus the knowledge base of their work is likely to change rapidly.
- They play many rolesbecause they often work for themselves or in small companies. So their role is diversely covering various verticals of marketing, designing, accounting, sales, managerial responsibilities, technical support, etc.
- They depend on social media platforms to bring-in business and to keep their knowledge up to date with current trends in their area of work
- They need to be quick learnersto stay on top in their business-space, and they need to manage that learning for themselves.
- Above all, they need to be flexible, to adapt to rapidly changing conditions around them.
Embedding skills in the curriculum
Most faculties in universities are well trained in content and have a deep understanding of their subject areas. Expertise in development of skills though, is another matter. It is not that faculty does not help students develop skills – they do – but whether these intellectual skills match the needs of knowledge-based workers, and whether enough emphasis is given to development of skills within the curriculum.
Some of the important skills that hold an important role in an individual’s overall development are communications skills, the ability to learn independently, ethics and responsibility, teamwork and flexibility, thinking skills, digital skills and knowledge management.
Universities can take that into consideration and look for ways to entrench these skills into curriculum.
- Development of skills is relatively context-specific. Furthermore, these skills need to be rooted within relatively particular knowledge domain. For example, problem solving in business is different from problem-solving in medicine. Different processes and approaches are used to solve problems in these domains (for instance,business tends to be moreintuitive, medicine moredeductive; business would probably accept a solution that will contain a higher element of risk or uncertainty, while medicine is more risk averse);
- Skills are often best learned in moderately small steps, with steps increasing gradually as mastery is approached;
- Learners need a lot of practiceto reach mastery and consistency in a particular skill;
- Learners need feedback on a regular basis to learn skills quickly and effectively; immediate feedback is usually better than late feedback;
- Although skills can be learned by trial and error without the intervention of any of the lateral mentors like a teacher, coach, or technology, development of those skills can be greatly enhanced with appropriate interventions.
The increasing competitiveness has raised a question on employability for graduates in the knowledge-based economy. And the question is; Are universities teaching the skills needed in a Knowledge-Based Economy?