How Technology Can Build the Bridge from Education to Employment

Since we announced plans to develop Workday Student last fall, we’ve teamed with nine universities to build this end-to-end student and faculty lifecycle management solution. We knew of the challenges institutions and their students face before we started this work, and we’ve seen first-hand how older administrative systems fall short of addressing them. Of most concern in our society on the topic of higher education is that too many students, after spending large amounts of money and time on their college experiences, have difficulty finding meaningful employment upon graduation.

At the Innovation & Disruption in Higher Education symposium hosted by Colgate University, author and Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen talked about the need for new ways of thinking about innovation in higher education.  “I never did worry about education,” Christensen told the audience, “but now I’m deeply worried.”

Christensen, who introduced the theory of disruptive innovation in his renowned book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” discussed how innovative companies succeeded by creating a new market, as Toyota did with the first-ever economy cars. In education, he pointed to the Kahn Academy, which initially offered free online tutoring for kids and has since expanded into a global, well-funded online learning company. He noted that in all cases, technology was the “causal mechanism” for the disruption. In higher education, Christensen said, “online learning and all of its cousins provide a technological core” for disruption.

How Technology Can Build the Bridge from Education to Employment - Liz DietzChristensen’s presentation got me thinking about what we’re doing here at Workday to help bridge the gap between education and the job market. While it’s true that online learning and “all of its cousins” are creating an impact by making learning more affordable, accessible, and targeted, the challenges in today’s job market go beyond curriculum. It’s about students’ choices and graduates’ expectations. It’s about what jobs are out there and how many positions are open. It’s about what skills are required for any given vocation.

These are the types of things we’ve thought a lot about with the design of Workday Student. Our focus has been to develop a system that helps students clearly understand at the very beginning of their college experiences what skills and competencies are required for specific jobs. They can use that knowledge to either ensure they take all the necessary courses or to make alternate career choices if they realize the required coursework doesn’t align with their strengths and interests. In addition, colleges and universities will be able to create individualized learning and success-guided pathways for students based on their unique education goals, and track progress from start to completion.

Best of all, we’ve had the advantage of building a new system from the ground up to offer these capabilities, as older administrative systems in place at most institutions just weren’t designed for modern problems.

As technologies go, we also believe data analytics will play a big role in addressing this gap, and its influence will grow exponentially in the coming years. There’s a wealth of data points out there—employer and research data on competencies and skills needed, number of positions available, average salaries, shifts in demand, trends pointing to the potential for new or exploding fields, and so on.  Workday’s goal is to make this information easily accessible to employers and facilitate the sharing of it with institutions to help them guide their students onto the most efficient pathway to fill these new jobs. Employers will stay connected with these same institutions as they produce qualified job candidates with the ideal competences and skills to fit their needs, and recruit straight from the source.

To Christensen’s point, the challenges in education are worrisome. Yet there’s plenty to be optimistic about, too. New technologies and approaches will have an impact, and I’m excited and grateful to be a part of what’s to come.