7 changes for work and education post pandemic
Articles & stories

7 changes for work and education post pandemic

After the school term ends this year, educational institutions will be hard at work. Schools and universities will need to understand how to respond to the new normal of social distancing and the fundamental shifts that lockdowns have brought about in the labor market.

The pandemic has caused unemployment rates to skyrocket, with many losing what seemed like stable jobs. Although a rebound is expected, some structural changes in the post-COVID working model are inevitable and will have major implications for education providers.

Implications for work

1. Remote working will become a new normal

Social distancing measures have forced employers to embrace the home office and, in the short term, this model has proved broadly successful. We may expect these practices to continue: Not only do they guarantee continuity in case of a crisis, but in the long run may mean that less office space is required and therefore contribute to substantial savings.

2. Freelance model becoming ever more popular

Freelancing has become a very popular working model over the past few years. Alain Dehaze, CEO of Adecco group, claims that "47% of the fresh graduates in the US are entering the labor force as freelancers and we are already at more than 40% of US workforce freelancing." The gig economy is likely to grow even further. It is important to point out, however, that this will require changes to labor legislation and social coverage for these workers as the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that crises are devastating for this group.

3. Lifelong learning, upskilling and reskilling will be standard practice

Due to recent technology disruptions, even tasks performed at the same position today have very little to do with the tasks a couple of years ago. Additionally, pandemic-related lay-offs forced many experienced workers to look for a job. This means candidates need to fight harder to get a job. Constant upskilling and reskilling will be crucial for keeping up with the market. Mona Mourshed, Partner at McKinsey and President and founding CEO of Generation, an NGO founded by McKinsey, points out: "What's been very clear over the past set of months is that the unemployed profile has altered, as you have more experienced profiles who are entering into the ranks of the unemployed. In Spain, we have a program where we've taken call center operators who were at severe risk of losing their jobs, and have supported them to become robotic process automation techs over a period of seven weeks. So that is very much what we believe is going to be a high demand area."

What's been very clear over the past set of months is that the unemployed profile has altered, as you have more experienced profiles who are entering into the ranks of the unemployed. In Spain, we have a program where we've taken call center operators who were at severe risk of losing their jobs, and have supported them to become robotic process automation techs over a period of seven weeks. So that is very much what we believe is going to be a high demand area.

Mona Mourshed, Partner at McKinsey and President and founding CEO of Generation, an NGO founded by McKinsey

Implications for education

1. Educational institutions will have to provide new services to support lifelong learning

With the need for constant reskilling and upskilling, better integration between work and education is necessary. "If you take the pupils of today who are in the primary school, six out of 10 of them will do a job that doesn't exist today," claims Alain Dehaze. Therefore, he wonders, "If you are supposed to build the workers and the leaders of tomorrow, what do you have to teach them if you don't know what the job will be?" The answer seems to be lifelong learning. We may need, for example, quite a few autonomous transportation specialists: With the self-driving cars and drones becoming important means of transportation, humans will need to integrate it with the existing traffic solutions. Educational systems around the world will have to change their practices and business models so that they can offer courses and support lifelong educational paths.

47% of the fresh graduates in the US are entering the labor force as freelancers and we are already at more than 40% of US workforce freelancing.

Alain Dehaze, CEO of Adecco group

2. Re-defining universities in an era where a simple internet connection allows anyone to tap into global knowledge.

Today, having an internet connection means you can tap into global knowledge. Therefore, the role of the university as knowledge provider must change. Christopher Pissarides, a Nobel Prize laureate and Regius Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, suggests a possible educational model for the future: Train fewer specialists and instead of subject A or B, give them a portfolio of skills that they can show to the employer. "You are like an artist," Pissarides says, "you open your portfolio and you show all the different skills you have to the employer, then the employer can pick and choose then retrain on the basis of what you had, so as to adapt the person entirely to the job."

3. Use of EdTech will change the way we work and learn

Professor Pissarides claims that even before COVID, universities were aware of the influence of new technologies on the nature of work. There is hope, therefore, that they will stay agile in a changing labor market by including EdTech solutions in their programs. The pandemic accelerated the development and accessibility of web-based trainings.

Mona Mourshed shares a real life example: "Because of COVID-19, many of the nurse population now have to have the skills that typically an ICU nurse would have to have. So we partnered with healthcare systems in Italy and Mexico to create a set of AI learnings that are demonstration-based, that give job relevant skills for the immediate tasks which nurses have to perform. For example, in Italy, our program reached 12% of all nurses in the entire country in four weeks."

4. A changing business model for universities

There is a huge debate around the future of some university programs (e.g. MBA, student applications, cross border exchange programs). Universities may not be able to rely on fees from foreign students, which contributed substantially to their budgets in the past. For example, they have brought in an additional GBP 7 bn to UK universities in the 2018/2019 academic year. International students constituted a significant share of American students community as well: According the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2018 international students contributed USD 44.7 bn to the U.S. economy. Most of the foreign students studying in the US were of Asian origin. In 2018/2019 academic year 369,548 students came from China only. This made them the largest group of international students studying at American schools. With cross-border travel restrictions, universities must come up with a different offer for students from abroad. Online courses may also play a role in this case.

We are facing a huge disruption in global labor markets and education systems. Upskilling and reskilling will become even more important in the years to come with a broader set of providers providing training that is both digital and classroom based.