Decoding the future: The school providing the skillset for next-gen jobs

Forty percent of the jobs of the future do not yet exist. It's a prediction you will often hear repeated at career forums and tech talks. Is there any truth to the figure, however? If so, what exactly are those jobs yet to be invented?

Decoding the future: The school providing the skillset for next-gen jobs
The workplace of the future will require a unique skillset. AI-generated Image: The Local / Dall-E2

The Local spoke to two students from the higher education programme Forward College about what the future of jobs will look like, and how their unique education is helping them prepare for it.

An artificially-intelligent, automated superhighway?

Back in the nineties, ‘the information superhighway’ was used to describe the transformative powers of digital technologies enabled by broadband internet. Thirty years later, this ‘superhighway’ has taken us to places few could imagine.

The rise of artificial intelligence, most recently demonstrated in the viral rise of ‘artistic’ applications such as Dall-E, and ChatGPT has impacted almost every career field. Suddenly, workflows are drastically streamlined and, depending on the industry, productivity can be increased by up to several orders of magnitude.

Automation has also had a massive impact. While we haven’t yet arrived at a future of android workers, drones and robots are already delivering food, cleaning hospitals and taking the place of even the most specialised workers.

While any kind of prediction is hard, it’s not unreasonable to assume that many jobs will disappear, but with even more to replace them. 

The future is unpredictable, but one thing’s for certain – tomorrow’s careers will require a unique personal skillset. Learn more about how Forward College delivers this

A future where what’s human matters

Brazilian first-year Forward College Data Science student Leonardo Reche, 18, predicts a swing back towards the human factor in terms of job creation.

“The jobs of the future will be more people-focused than task-focused. The focus will be on well-being, rather than results. The computers and machines we’ve created will be able to do so much more for us, so the focus will be on human relationships, ensuring that people everywhere have access to goods and services.

“Designing people-oriented technology is going to be a greater area of growth. We need more people designing user experiences, as there’s still a lot of global inequality and not everyone has the same proficiency with technology.”

Spanish second-year student Yohana Fontenla, 19, who is studying Economics and politics, has similar sentiments, albeit with a caveat.

“I don’t believe jobs will be created, as much as adapted. In 20 years, we may not need pilots for passenger jets, but we’ll need more people to design them, program them and supervise flights. Jobs will focus on overseeing automation and making sure the needs of people are met. Yes, jobs will disappear, but more will be created as humans are needed to adapt the new technologies.”

Are schools ready?

Leonardo and Yohana believe that future careers will require a greater focus on human relationships, in addition to an understanding of new technologies. But do they think schools have given them the skills they will need to succeed?

Says Yohana: “One of the key things school misses is teaching us how to treat one another. We don’t necessarily learn how to work in a team or give useful feedback. When you’re at school, you don’t even think about needing these skills. When we get to university it can be quite a shock.”

Leonardo replies: “Ready for the workplace itself? I don’t think so. At school, we were constantly given theoretical knowledge, with little understanding of how to apply it. We weren’t taught how to take that theoretical knowledge and use it to achieve a practical goal.

“I’m applying for summer internships at the moment and the first thing I notice in ads is that they ask for someone who has communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills – all things you need to prove with prior experience. If you’ve gone to a traditional school, you’re going to have a hard time with that.

“Not focusing on interpersonal skills is the big black hole, when it comes to what schools miss about the workplace, It’s an area of skill that will be even more important in future decades.”

Tomorrow’s leaders: Leonardo Reche and Yohana Fontenla. Photos: Supplied

Forward (College) thinking

Both Leonardo and Yohana are students at Forward College, a unique three-year programme, spaced across three cities. It combines undergraduate degrees from the University of London and the London School of Economics with a range of professional and personal development courses and certifications.

Created by French entrepreneur and government advisor Boris Walbaum, alongside a team including Apple and Google alumni, Forward College‘s goal is to ‘future-proof’ graduates by developing the interpersonal skills that schools don’t focus upon. 

“We have a whole module dedicated to those ‘soft skills’,” says Leonardo.

“There are classes and readings each week that teach the importance of communication, giving feedback and problem-solving. Then we can put those skills into play in our practical assignments, where we work in a group on a real-life problem. When I’m entering the job market, I can show that these are skills that I have developed.”

Yohana appreciates how Forward College has taught her greater flexibility and resilience, through the programme’s year-long stays in three key European capitals: Lisbon, Paris and Berlin

She states: “We spend a lot of time learning and practising how to adapt to people and situations, both in theory and through our practical assignments. Because we’re spending time in three different countries, we also have to adjust quickly, to understand the language and culture.

“Throughout the programme, we learn how to respect and adapt across cultures, and this is important in the world of business. If you’re going to join a team or found a company, you first need to understand and appreciate how everyone works.”

Focus on the future

With three different programmes across six different fields of study, in addition to co-living in three of Europe’s business capitals, it seems that Leonardo and Yohana’s time at Forward College is the ideal preparation for the careers of the future – but how do they feel about what’s to come?

Yohana is cautiously optimistic, saying: “Well, it’s scary and there are lots of challenges ahead, for us as individuals and the planet as a whole. Think of the effects of climate change and political division.

“On the other hand, I think that Forward College is giving us an advantage in approaching our careers and in solving future problems. We have already been working on real-life projects and we can see that we’re making a difference.”

Meanwhile, Leonardo seeks to use his time at Forward College to harness technology for good.

“I have mixed feelings. There will be a lot of hard work for us to do and conflict in making sure everyone has access to what they need. We are already seeing environmental collapse and resource inequality. 

“However, there is also much technological progress. It is easier to reach people than ever before, and the global standard of living is improving. I know what I’ve learned so far can be used to improve lives, through the smart use of technology.

“Whatever happens, those of us who have had the Forward College experience will be ready for any of the important jobs the future has in store.”

Tomorrow’s business leaders are created today. Discover Forward College’s programmes, developing the personal skills your child needs to both lead and thrive

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English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

Denmark's government has agreed on a plan to significantly reduce the number of courses offered in English in the country's universities.

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts
Life sciences faculty hold an open house at Copenhagen University. The university is now expected to reduce admissions as part of a plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt / Ritzau Scanpix

At the end of June, the plan aims to reduce the number of English-language higher education programmes while also expanding educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities.

The exact number of courses to be cut – and where they will be cut – depends on the future employment of graduates.

Cuts to English-language programmes

The reduction of English-language programmes at institutions of higher education is rooted in an effort to reduce rising costs of state educational grants (SU) in Denmark. Despite attempts to reduce SU expenses, the cost is expected to rise to 570 million kroner by 2025, far above the cap of 449 million kroner set in 2013. 

There are a number of cases in which non-Danish citizens are entitled to SU, from moving to Denmark with one’s parents, marrying a Danish citizen, residing in Denmark for more than 5 years, status as a worker in Denmark, and more.

The reduction is targeted at English-language programmes where few English-speaking students find employment in Denmark after graduation, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Education and Research. 

Among the targeted programmes are business academies and professional bachelor programmes, where 72 percent of students are English-speaking and only 21 percent find work in Denmark after completing their education. 

However, programmes where higher proportions of English students enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, will be exempt from the reduction. This amounts to 650 education institutions around the country. 

In 2016, students demonstrated against cuts in SU. Photo: Emil Hougaard / Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement also establishes a financial incentive for institutions that graduate English-speaking students who remain to work in Denmark.

According to a June 10 analysis from consulting firm Deloitte, EU students who receive higher education in Denmark contribute an average of nearly 650,000 kroner to Denmark’s public coffers over a lifetime. 

However, the report notes, a student’s positive or negative contribution depends on how long they stay in Denmark. Although students who leave Denmark shortly after graduating constitute a cost to the Danish state, the analysis found that the contribution of students who stay in Denmark to work offsets the cost of those who leave.

The analysis expressed concern that reducing opportunities for English-language higher education could “have a number of unintended negative consequences,” including deterring students who might stay in Denmark to work from moving in the first place. There’s also the risk that it will become more difficult to recruit foreign researchers to Danish universities, which could impact education quality, the analysis claims.

The UCN professional school in Thisted is expected to open one new training program as a result of the decentralisation plan. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Decentralisation of Danish education

The plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark not only expands educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities, but it also aims to reduce enrollment in higher education within major cities by 10 percent by 2030 (but not more than 20 percent).

For example, a law programme will be established in Esbjerg, a medical programme in Køge and a veterinary programme in Foulum.

Minister of Education and Research Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said the goal was to offer students educational opportunities regardless of where they live within Denmark and strengthen the economy outside of major cities. 

However, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Dansk Erhverv, expressed concern that the decentralisation plan doesn’t factor in labour demands within Denmark’s major cities.

Mads Eriksen, head of education and research policy at Dansk Erhverv, said it was “unwise” for programmes to reduce acceptance rates to in-demand fields in that particular city. 

“They are trying to solve a problem with labour in the countryside, but at the same time they are creating labour problems in the cities,” Eriksen said. “The English-language programme cuts are far more aligned with the demands of the labour market.”

Denmark has utilised unemployment-based admission for higher education since 2015. Programmes whose graduates experience unemployment consistently 2 percent higher than average are subject to a 30 percent admission cut.

Eriksen thinks it shouldn’t be a matter of reducing admissions across several universities by

“For example, we have five philosophy education programmes in Denmark, each of which have high unemployment rates among graduates,” Eriksen said, referencing a recent Dansk Erhverv analysis

He would prefer to see resources concentrated into making a couple of those programmes the best they can be and closing the rest, versus reducing admissions in all five programmes. “We have to be ready to close programmes that continue to have high unemployment, not just reduce them.”

In 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language program and converted two from English to Danish. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen / Ritzau Scanpix

Opposite impacts on provincial institutions

Gitte Sommer Harrits, vice chancellor at VIA University College, shared concern that although the decentralised education aspect of the plan aims to increase the number of students at provincial universities, the reduction of English-language programmes is likely to have the opposite effect.

A report from the organisation Akademikerne in early June found that international students have played a significant role filling educational institutions outside of Danish cities. Nine of the 10 educational institutions with the largest proportion of English-speaking students are outside the country’s largest cities. 

The University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg has the highest proportion of international students; 40 percent of its 628 students are not affiliated with Denmark or other Nordic countries. 

While significantly larger with nearly 37,000 students, Copenhagen University has 5.2 percent international students.

Already in 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language programme and converted two others from English to Danish after the Danish government ordered universities to reduce the number of international students.

Harrits said she found the possible closure of English-language programmes drawing international students to provincial areas to be puzzling when paired with the intention to decentralise education.