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In the future, will we acquire skills, not degrees?
Nontraditional education options are on the rise.
- U.S. college enrollment has declined for the eighth consecutive year.
- Recent survey found that a majority of freelancers found skills training to be more important than having a degree.
- It's becoming harder for universities to keep up with a rapidly changing workforce.
It should come as no surprise to mostly anyone who is paying attention, that we're in a seriously fast moving and complex technology-driven economy. One of the likes we've never seen before and one that's only going to get wilder.
Disruption in every corner of the economy and our society at large has become the rule and not the exception. Some areas are speeding along faster than others. The latest institution in the crosshairs of progress? The American university. With antiquated systems still in place, a fading relevancy, and inability to keep up with an evolving workforce — the degree system we've used as a crutch for merit this century is coming to its end.
College enrollment decline
New data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has found that college enrollment in the U.S. has again decreased for its eighth consecutive year. The report covers up to 97 percent of enrollments within the country at degree-granting postsecondary institutions.
The report goes into a detailed breakdown on degrees, age ranges, and location. It's worth checking out as it could be indicative of a much larger trend. While there are some new growing areas of study — we can always speculate on the best college majors of the future — the overarching trend, in both quantitative measures and cultural sentiment, is one of a future geared towards skills, not degrees.
Increasingly there are more and more renowned and prestigious companies that no longer require a college degree for work. Recently Glassdoor created a list of major companies where a degree wasn't required. Some included powerhouses such as Apple and Google. Why the sudden cultural shift from the bigwigs?
It's a common trend that many people go to college only to end up getting a job that doesn't relate in any way to what they studied. Major corporations are starting to realize that. Right now, a great deal of companies that still require degrees seem to be using the degree as a signal or key. A key that gets you in the door and tells your potential employer that you have completed something all the way through and are reliable. At least on paper, anyway. . .
Accredited skills and experience matters the most
One of the fastest growing areas of work is within the freelancing community or "gig economy." A recent survey titled Freelancing in America 2018 found that 93 percent of freelancers with four year degrees said that skills training was more useful than their degree. A majority of 70 percent of freelancers participated in new skills training within the past six months, compared to only 49 percent of full-time non-freelancers that didn't do any skills training in that same time frame.
This data leads us to the root of what's been happening in the workforce this past decade. Exponential technological change paired with absurd educational costs and, of course, the 4 year minimum time sink — has made the university system, a difficult path to commit to and choose. The cost of a college education isn't directly correlated anymore with your potential future earnings.
A lot of what is being taught in college has no bearing or relevance on the day-to-day functions of a real job. Yet, there is still this perception that degrees are some kind of holy constitution of mastery over your topic of study. For doctors or other highly advanced degrees, that may still be true for now. But more often than not, your professional competency has nothing to do with what you learned in school.
Take programming, for instance. For a dynamic skill like web development, information from a few years ago is already irrelevant. Those who are actually professionals need to be active in a dynamic community and constantly stay up to date with the technology.
Writers and marketers can't afford to be trapped for four years in a room with a blackboard and a tenured professor that can't log into his own email account. While you were toiling away reading Chaucher and learning how to format an outdated market research plan, this friggin' guy learned everything he needed to know from a bargain blog and is running ads on a social platform that didn't exist a year ago. . .
Knowledge is not static. The old hyper-specialized cog is not the ideal worker anymore. The archetype of this workforce era is the Renaissance (wo)man.
Freelancers understand that. Even if you do have a diploma or intend on getting one, the mindset of always learning is the new way. A 2016 World Economic forum found that in most industries and countries, the most in-demand jobs and specialties were jobs that were just created in the past five years.
While a majority of schools are not keeping up with the real world, there are a few initiatives attempting to remedy this problem.
Lumina foundation's solutions for knowledge advancement
One such organization concerned about the future of education is the Lumina foundation. Their recent 2019 Education Innovation Prize challenge, sought to challenge competition entrants to find better solutions for after high school education.
Miami-Dade College's Accelerated Credential Training and Skills (MDC ACTS) program took home the first place prize this year. They've created something called the earn-and-learn model. Working with a number of different employers, they've developed 12 week programs to provide continual technical training. People will be provided on the job training, while also receiving hourly pay and a round of guaranteed job interviews. Successful graduates earn credentials that they can then use for further learning and even greater job opportunities.
Executive vice president of the project, Lenore Rodicio talks about how an initiative like this will allay some major problems that young adults face.
"For some, the decision about whether to stay in school can come down to a choice between putting food on the table or going to class. We hope that with our earn-and-learn model, fewer people will have to make that choice. . . It allows students to remain in school while earning a wage, raise their skills in high-demand local industries, and have an entry point to a higher education pathway."
It only makes sense that businesses, and even some colleges, retune their approach to both skill acquisition and employment.
- 7 most valuable college majors for the future ›
- America needs faster and cheaper education pathways to good jobs - Big Think ›
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.