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Ask Apollidon: What workforce trends do you anticipate, and how can online programs address them?  mobile hero image

Ask Apollidon: What workforce trends do you anticipate, and how can online programs address them? 

Students of the University of Bologna, founded in 1088, studied canon and civil law. Earning a credential for gainful employment wasn’t a primary consideration. Nor did anyone envision working in aerospace, cyber security, biomechanics, radiology, or health informatics. But throughout history, as new fields emerged, higher education institutions have evolved to provide relevant expertise. 

Today’s workplace is changing rapidly, and universities will need to adapt their offerings to continue meeting the needs of professionals and their employers. We asked Apollidon’s top leadership, Chief Operating Officer Ann-Louise Everett and Chief Executive Officer John Everett, to share their thoughts on workforce trends and what institutions must do to stay ahead. 

Change as an Academic Subject 

If the workplace is in flux, and a core aim of higher education is to prepare people to succeed professionally, then change itself must be a core part of the curriculum.  


Ann-Louise: “We have to help educate people to deal with change. But more than just deal with it, I feel like we have to figure out how to help people embrace it, plan for it, see what impact there is in their particular job function, and then go look for education related to that. All of that is very hard for human beings to do. But I think the people who do that are the ones that are going to excel. And the education programs that are willing to put change as a central [subject] will also be the winners.” 


Customizable, On-Demand Programs 

Many higher education institutions take a one-size-fits-all approach. Yet, people are becoming increasingly empowered to choose what they want and when they want it. While an online learning option offers greater flexibility than a campus-based program, institutions can do more.  


Ann-Louise: “I think that higher ed is not moving fast enough to let me tailor my education to my needs. It ought to be on demand if I want to go take a master’s degree in biochemical physics, because that’s what I want. I want to be able to pick the courses and go, ‘I want a master’s degree in biochemical physics.’ Like anything that I need, I should be able to go buy it. I need the entire spectrum [of courses]. I need it completely tailored to me. I want credentials for it, but I want much more flexibility than I have now. We have to get much more customized. I think that careers are changing so drastically that you have to put the student in the driver’s seat and have them help you drive to what their needs are.” 


“Fix the Robots” 

Automation may replace some human jobs, but it can also create new jobs. AI trainers, explainers, and sustainers are all human beings who create, simplify, and oversee AI’s optimal use. And there are other examples of technology compelling people to learn new roles.  


John: “There aren’t hundreds and hundreds of people putting things in the little boxes in an Amazon distribution center anymore. There are a bunch of robots and more and more of those robots are replacing the people that did the picking. So, you’re going to have this huge building that has 20 people in it who are there because they need to fix the robots. If you want to work for Amazon, you’ve got to learn how to fix the machines that move the stuff around.” 


 Championing Human Skills 

As people build their technical skills in response to professional needs, their “human skills” will remain important. Sources from Forbes to the federal government are emphasizing employer demand for candidates with soft skills. Humanities and social sciences degree programs are where people hone these essential skills.  


Ann-Louise: “The only incremental value we have as humans is, in my opinion, soft skills. Interaction skills and analytical skills. Number one, according to the World Economic Council, is analytic skills. Just being able to decipher the truth, understand what you’re looking at, being able to analyze and synthesize information. I think that’s a skill that is sorely lacking. So, if you’re looking at a skills base that humans can contribute beyond all the technology stuff, [it’s] analysis, synthesis, human interaction skills, leadership skills, risk-taking. 


“I think that imagination is also undervalued and under-taught and underutilized and that applies to all fields. Education really makes a big difference, because the more you feel confident in the fact that you have basic skills that will help you adapt, that’s when you’re successful. If you don’t feel that you have the basic tools to adapt, you revert to what you know. And that’s not going to help you in the long run.” 


John: “A really good history teacher says, ‘Compare and contrast the Japanese culture in 1500 to European culture in 1800 and talk about the differences,’ and so forth. What that makes you do [is] exactly what Ann Louise is saying, which is to delve into what it is about something that makes it valuable or different. That’s where the humanities really, really play a role because machines can’t do this.  And that’s what technologists don’t get. If you’re an engineer, you build a bridge. The engineering [expertise] has to be there but also the other things that make it human and beautiful.” 


Professional Certifications Needed 

Government statistics show much faster than average growth for forensic science technicians. Yet, this expanding field has been neglected by education. 


Ann-Louise: “Forensic science still to this day does not have a certification that is a profession. They don’t have a test. They don’t have a protocol that you have to go through. They’ve been trying to get that put in place through their societies for forever. They did get to the point where you have to have a master’s degree in order to be a manager in a CSI lab. But that’s a profession that wasn’t a profession [until recently].” 


Emerging career and career technology trends must be addressed through corresponding degree and certificate programs, and forensic science is just one example. 


Ann-Louise: “AI is another one. Big data is another one. There are clearly trends—bioinformatics or just informatics, you know—that are completely new professions.” 


If you’d like to learn how your higher education institution can adapt to evolving workforce trends and needs through online programs, Apollidon Learning’s thought leaders are here to help! Let’s get a conversation started. 

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