From education to employment

One Size Does Not Fit All: Elevating Educational Pathways Beyond Degrees

Hadi Moussa

Hadi Moussa, EMEA Managing Director at Coursera, explores why the fast-evolving labour market demands a shift in the nation’s approach to education to prepare learners for the new economy.

From a fast-evolving global skills landscape to a tight UK labour market, the national dialogue concerning how to effectively elevate further education attainment must broaden its focus. Indeed, the nature of today’s ever-changing job market demands more focus on alternative educational credentialing, beyond the traditional degree model, to quickly and effectively skill the next generation of workers for the digital economy while mitigating the skills shortages that have been hampering national productivity for over a decade.

Beyond Degrees

Against this already-unpropitious backdrop, the seismic labour market shocks likely to be caused by Generative AI loom on the horizon, which alone is predicted to catalyse 12 million occupation transitions by 2030. As people leave disappearing or dwindling occupations, the global labour market will need to reweight its focus on skills and competencies. While a meaningful degree premium continues to exist for most degree-holders, it’s therefore more imperative than ever that businesses and educational institutions ask themselves: are we equipping our learners with the skills required to succeed in the challenging contemporary labour market?

With skills at a premium, skills-first qualifications such as microcredentials, professional certifications, and apprenticeships are emerging and expanding as extremely effective models in skilling learners for today’s in-demand jobs. Crucially, such pathways can be entered irrespective of A-Level attainment, with this expansive approach to skills development proving key in unlocking opportunities for students who have missed their school target grades, and may be more adaptable to different avenues of educational attainment.

Stanford University’s ‘AI in Healthcare’ and the University of Michigan’s ‘Python for Everybody’ are two such examples of job-relevant, flexible, accessible skills-first online specialisations. These courses are helping learners prepare for sector-specific roles, offering them tailored learning opportunities, while allowing them to balance their professional and personal commitments alongside their education.

What’s more, an increasing number of microcredentials also ‘stack’ into university degrees, meaning that those with these qualifications can either deploy them to launch a career or progress to higher education with a more solid skills base. For example, learners who complete Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate can use their qualification to count towards the University of London’s BsC in Computer Science – or to pursue an immediate career in the field. Such stackable qualifications enjoy the type of dual employer/educator recognition that have not been attained by traditional A-Levels.

Adapting Our Apprenticeship Approach

Apprenticeships also present a pragmatic, adaptable and cost-effective alternative to conventional three-year degrees. This educational approach provides learners with specialised practical skills, as well as invaluable on-the-job paid experience. By engaging in paid work while learning, apprenticeships are empowering students to earn as they learn, while fostering a direct professional experience, setting them apart from the more theoretical approach often favoured by traditional degrees.

However, by pairing online learning with traditional apprenticeships, we can create a more holistic, flexible, and responsive system. This integrated approach can enable us to provide more tailored, sector-specific training – from digital skills to data analysis, marketing, and beyond. This would benefit employers seeking to meet rapidly changing skill needs and apprentices who require greater flexibility due to family or other caring responsibilities.

Looking Ahead to the New Economy

As we face the most complex labour market – and world – in human history, our message is clear – just as the world of work is rapidly changing, so must our approach to education. To keep pace, there is a greater need for a diversified, skills-first approach to education.

To skill our young learners for the new world of work, there are now a wealth of flexible and accessible learning opportunities available. And while universities will retain their pre-eminent role in shaping the UK’s – and the world’s – young people for success, institutions across sectors – governments, universities and further education colleges, and employers – must be poised to drive this urgently-needed shift to a skills-first learning paradigm.

Hadi Moussa
By Hadi Moussa, Managing Director, EMEA for Coursera

FE News on the go…

Welcome to FE News on the go, the podcast that delivers exclusive articles from the world of further education straight to your ears.

We are experimenting with Artificial Intelligence to make our exclusive articles even more accessible while also automating the process for our team of project managers.

In each episode, our thought leaders and sector influencers will delve into the most pressing issues facing the FE sector, offering their insights and analysis on the latest news, trends, and developments.

Related Articles