This article is part of our June series about the future of work. Click here for more.
Four years is the typical length of time it takes to earn a traditional university degree. But at the speed at which technology evolves, by the time a student is ready to graduate, a good portion of what was learned could already be out of date.
Of course, no one is arguing the importance of a degree. But it also speaks to the need for ongoing professional development.
In the APAC region, skill-specific roles are far more common today than in the past, when linear career structures had been the status quo. The change has impacted the gig economy, too. According to research by consulting group KellyOCG, 84% of talent managers in APAC now hire or use short-term workers in their organisations–more than any other region in the world.
For marketers in the region, creativity will always be an important part of the skills mix, but research from LinkedIn, which surveyed more than 700 professionals across India, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, suggests it’s being edged out by more technical, strategic abilities–especially those that provide greater efficiencies or experiences for organisations.
Specific skills in the areas of cloud and distributed computing, statistical analysis and data mining, and user interface design ranked as some of the most in-demand across LinkedIn’s entire network.
Candace Nascimento, a marketing communications and design consultant for the National Australia Bank (NAB), is one of many who has built her skills portfolio through e-learning and modular qualifications. Having completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees online, Nascimento has continued to top up her qualifications to stay competitive in her ever-changing field of work.
“I, and I know a lot of other people in my workplace, prefer to do short courses to expand our knowledge base,” she told CMO.com. “There’s so much out there to choose from, so for me it’s about whatever the course requirements and outline look like and how relevant it is to my field of work,” she said.
Added Lyn Goodear, CEO of the Australian Human Resources Institute: “If our future is going to be about skills, a rich matrix of opportunities to learn new skills will be required,” Goodear said.
For their part, “universities are beginning to adapt to the pace of change, along with the learning appetite and expectations of individuals and business,” Goodear said.
Taylor’s University in Malaysia is one example of an institution offering its students and the wider community more interactive and flexible ways to learn before and after entering the workforce. “We believe that in order to change the quality of graduates to be future-ready, we must first start by changing the way our degree is structured,” said Ben Foo, CMO at Taylor’s University.
The university recently launched the Taylor’s Curriculum Framework, which affords students the flexibility to co-curate their education in a personalised and modular way. “This allows students to go outside their field, into many fields, or in a second major to be good at two fields,” Foo said.
NAB’s Nascimento completed some of her courses–including one in social media–through traditional universities, but she also called out the growing appeal of independent learning centers, where she and her colleagues have completed tech-based skills development courses.
“It highlights to a lot of people that you're going out and you're wanting to learn something new,” she said.
Remember The Soft Skills
As technology becomes more ingrained in our workplaces, “being a credible communicator, having the capacity to lead and influence others, and being future-oriented and ready to look for solutions” are also must-have skills, according to Goodear.
Indeed, soft skills are crucial skills in today’s unpredictable work environment.
“We are very good at technical communication, but what’s missing in today’s workplaces is genuine interpersonal connections,” said Michael Gencher, who runs Australian-based corporate training company The Business Lifesaver. “The way I look at it, your hard skills are what get you the job, and your soft skills are what keep you in the job and enhance your career.”
Soft skills are where higher education can be invaluable, according to Taylor’s University Foo.
“Learning is not just about acquiring academic knowledge, but also about how students look after themselves, how they communicate, work in teams, how they manage behaviour, life skills, and ethical principles in their life,” he said. “These are critical skills that are transferable across different industries and jobs.”