I’ve started looking for a job this week, so I can tell you that the economy is much more of interest to me now than ever, particularly how it’s affecting higher education. I subscribe to a number of job search engines and associations that also syndicate new openings, so I’ve been observing the job market in California for a couple of months now. I’ve noticed very few instructional designer roles opening up, and even those that are published directly on university websites come with a disclaimer that although you can apply, they are currently under a hiring freeze so you might never hear back from them.
I’ve also noticed some phenomenal roles – policy makers, strategists and managers of institution-wide educational technology initiatives. These are generally posted by higher education institutions that have newly established ‘elearning units’ – hubs or centers of excellence with remits to expand hybrid and fully online course offerings for their universities. These jobs sound great, not only because of the stimulating challenges that lie waiting for the people who land the roles, but also because they show signs of greater understanding and openness on the side of the institutions who are ready, willing and eager to invest in educational technology initiatives.
So, now back to some thoughts on the economy…
Alan Tait wrote an interesting post on the EDEN President’s Blog about Scotland’s economy and how, through direct engagement with employers, higher education in the UK is able to design custom training for the workforce to ensure that the teaching is relevant, and that the industries feel the benefits. I wanted to include below a snippet of his impressions of the ways in which the oil and gas sectors view the relevance of education:
I was surprised by the almost total focus on the recruitment of the brightest and best of new graduates, and on coping with the difficulty in persuading new graduates that the Oil and Gas industries are attractive places to build a career. There was almost no focus from the industry representatives on the development of people in their existing workforce. My only contribution was to point out that if the competition for the brightest and best new graduates was already fierce this would only get worse because of the demographic down turn, in many developed countries at least, of this age cohort. This would mean development of the current workforce would become even more important than it was already, and that the emphasis on non-campus based forms of study that supported learning in and around the workplace rather just the campus would become all the more important.
Some industry giants must have heard Tait’s call because they’re already starting to do their part. Microsoft announced the launch of a new program in February designed to ‘provide up to 2 million people over the next three years with the technology training needed to succeed in the 21st-century economy’. A very important step considering that our focus can’t just be on current college students struggling to get heard in the blogosphere, and kids in K-12 who we’re trying to teach about technology at as early an age as we can. How about the current workforce – those still in it that is? Companies are not likely in the position to invest in on-the-job training, and employees are probably juggling with the new responsibilities faced by so many families who have had to transition from 2- to 1-income households. These types of new training initiatives only require time and determination from the life-long student…and the payoffs of self-empowerment would be priceless.
So, as the sun spills onto my carpet as I sit on my sofa (a change of pace from being proverbially chained to my desk – the magic of laptops!) and I can still take advantage of the quiet while the commuters are still on the roads returning home, I’ll post this message and get back to work. First point on the agenda: finish watching a webinar entitled ‘The Economy’s Impact on Higher Education’ – part of Educause’s monthly series discussing how the economic climate is impacting upon the education sector. Let’s hope they have some good news…