MKBLP get a lesson in future proofing how we prepare people for work

Date: 23 Aug 2016

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MK Business Leaders get a lesson in future proofing how we prepare people for work

‘What are universities and education for, if it isn’t fitting people for the world of work?’ Lynette Ryals, of Cranfield University, has asked MK Business Leaders.

Lynette, Pro-Vice Chancellor Education at Cranfield, was giving an overview of changes ahead for education and how it affects the workplace at a recent Breakfast Briefing session organised by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.

She said: ‘Historically universities were for the elite and about developing thinking techniques and knowledge. They had the knowledge and we were buying access to it. ‘Arguably those days are over because anyone can watch a world class expert on, say a TED Talk and get that knowledge for free.’

Lynette said things were changing because of wider university access; the way people learn is changing; and how the workplace has moved towards a service economy and knowledge-based jobs. How we use exams - locking young people in a room for two or three hours and asking them to recall as many facts they can - is itself being examined, she said. ‘Show me a situation in today’s world of work where you would be asked to solve a problem without the help of the internet, and writing by hand?’

In the short term Lynette said educators and business must think hard about what a university education is for. At Cranfield now they are looking into combining an academic education with its practical application in the workplace, and businesses could create apprenticeships by diverting funds currently used on CIPD type courses. Some universities were also looking at four year degree courses including a paid year in the workplace.

Further ahead Lynette said the education system won’t be feeding people through standardised learning whether they need it or not. ‘I think the future is a culture where you choose modules suited to you.’

She said Cranfield, famed for aeronautical engineering, is currently working with Rolls-Royce, equipping trainee engineers with augmented reality glasses which overlay information on to their view showing for example which bolts to undo first on a jet engine. ‘That will become more mainstream and beyond that the next step is virtual reality, already being used elsewhere to train surgeons,’ she said. Student engineers could train in a virtual reality space where undoing the wrong part does not cause a disaster.

Dr Philip Smith MBE, chairman MK Business Leaders Partnership said: ‘Lynette gave us a really stimulating look into the emerging challenges and possible solutions facing education and the needs of business. It is an issue that we are continually visiting – how can we best prepare our people for the world of work?’