In our national discourse on higher education, we give a lot of lip service to lifelong learning. But we’ve done little to rework our systems, infrastructure, and architecture of delivering higher education, so that it works better for working learners of all ages. While our rhetoric suggests that learning is lifelong, our actions seem to indicate that school is somehow over by age 30.
We know that adult learners in particular will be dramatically affected by the exponential growth of technological innovations, such as machine learning and automation. The future of work implies a more volatile and changing economy. Meanwhile, experts are forecasting that we’re going to live longer—that the first people to live to 150 have already been born.
As our work lives become longer and more turbulent, learning will necessarily become more episodic and frequent. Future working learners will, in turn, be looking for more flexible, seamless, on-demand pathways that move them ahead in their working lives.
We’re woefully underprepared for this future. Today, a forgotten half of young adults haven’t earned a postsecondary credential by the age of 30, while millions of Americans, young and old, are detached from the workforce. If we don’t act soon, we risk leaving more of us behind.
So enough talk about lifelong learning. Enough time spent admiring the problem. It’s time to build.
Americans will have to harness the power of education throughout their working lives. The future of our nation’s economic prosperity and competitiveness will depend on a citizenry that regularly retools itself for the future of work. We as educators, policymakers, employers, investors, entrepreneurs and foundations need to hunker down and really set our minds to imagining what that will look like. It’s our responsibility to help our educational system evolve into a learning ecosystem of the future that will help our citizens attain the knowledge and skills they need to lead successful careers and lives.
That’s why we’re launching the Strada Institute for the Future of Work (Strada Institute), a new kind of R&D (research and development) lab that, coupled with a $1.5 million innovation fund, that will identify promising solutions for working adults and inform Strada’s mission impact investments aimed at transforming educational pathways for working learners.
At Strada Institute, we’re dedicated to advancing our understanding of the future of learning and work. Our institute’s work will focus on catalyzing more direct and promising pathways between education and employment for all working learners. Research will be the first step to move from theory to practice, as we are uniquely positioned to leverage insights and learnings gained across Strada Education Network to help all stakeholders invest in the infrastructure and systems necessary to prepare our citizens for the future of work.