How Can Business Schools Prepare Students for Jobs that Don't Even Exist Yet?

How Can Business Schools Prepare Students for Jobs that Don't Even Exist Yet? main image

Business schools and other higher education institutions are facing a conundrum. Technology is moving at lightning speed, which means churning out future employees with the necessary skills to not only survive, but thrive, is challenging. What is even more difficult is the need for educational institutions to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet.

Dell Technologies Institute for the Future (IFTF), along with 20 experts, recently revealed that 85 percent of the jobs people will be doing in 2030 don’t exist yet. While that number seems awfully high, there is no question that plenty of new work is on its way. 

As a result, the pressure for top graduate business schools to train future C-suite executives for unimaginable possibilities is high. No one expects professors and administrators to be mind readers, but they should have insight and intuition about what the future may hold. Also, there are techniques to prepare students for whatever may come their way.

Frameworks for flexibility

Business schools need to incorporate teaching methods to train students to be flexible and roll with the punches just as they would teach them to read financial statements. After all, entire jobs and industries may find themselves eliminated while others emerge from the dust. With the right frameworks, future CEOs could have a better perspective on what to do when things shift unexpectedly.

Schools are in fact doing this in some instances, as simulations for courses and frameworks currently being taught have flexibility baked in. But this is a suggestion to make flexibility the main lesson and not just a byproduct.   

For example, students could envisage what they would do should an entire department get replaced by artificial intelligence (AI). How would they react? What steps could they take to deal with the employees feeling abandoned and who lose their jobs? What would they do about training people who could help employ AI? It’s the age-old question: How do you get old dogs, themselves included, to do new tricks?

Providing them with a set of questions to ask and allowing them to take a more flexible stance in simulations is helpful. Professors could also include case studies where flexibility was necessary, asking students to discuss situations and gain insight into how others have handled the unexpected. While no one can truly anticipate these non-existent jobs, they can still look to past leaders for lessons in character and process. They can pull what is relevant from those experiences to try and handle these new prospects.  

Relevant research

Many professors spend a significant period of time conducting research in areas of interest relevant to their teaching. Sometimes, they work with industry to ensure the research is useful, practical, and easily applicable. By conducting research about growing industries with an eye on the future (think big data, AI, blockchain, etc.), they can better prepare themselves and their students for what the future may hold.

Sometimes, the writing is on the wall. Many recognize, for example, that coal is dying and new, clean energy is the future. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management has long linked engineers with business students, so that commercialization of innovation is possible. Their professors – along with the research they conduct – are the link between the two groups. The point is, professors can help their students recognize such a trend and see something new is on the horizon. Then, they can train them for whatever is coming.  

By studying these areas, some professors could become the creators of new jobs and thus able to train others for these roles. Or, they could simply be among those who are the first to know about emerging industries. Either way, they can better help students based on this insight.

Evergreen curriculum

The core curriculum, in general, will always be applicable. People need to know how to handle finances and budgets and need to be savvy on how to optimize operations and inspire employees. Those skills will never go out of style and can be applied to any leadership role. Of course, professors need to stay on the cutting edge of industry to ensure the references and connections they use make sense to their audience. But they should never stop teaching those basic skills which are a necessity for success. The good news is that accredited business schools are already doing this and many of them with verve.

Ultimately, no one knows what the future holds. But business schools have an obligation to do some forecasting and prepare students for jobs they aren’t able to imagine yet. They have to help future leaders recognize value and the next big thing. Producing innovators is no easy feat, but by teaching flexibility, studying the marketplace, and providing knowledge of basic skills, business schools can at least begin to prepare students for the uncertainty the future job market holds.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Nunzio Quacquarelli

Nunzio is the founder and CEO of QS. Following completion of his own MBA from the Wharton School, he has gone on to become a leader in education management with over 25 years of experience in the industry. He is truly passionate about education and firmly believes in the QS mission to help young people to fulfill their potential through educational achievement, international mobility and career development. 

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