The Changing World of Work–FE Reimagined


Extract from the Further Education Reimagined ebook

The work we do has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Technology has automated many traditional manual,
high routine jobs that have been the mainstay of college success and this trend will continue faster than ever before.
Even information workers are no longer immune to automation. Indeed, 47% of job categories are open to automation in the next two decades. Only non-routine work will continue to provide jobs in the long term.

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The nature of the work we do has also changed, as described in Gazelle’s Enterprise Futures4. Careers characterised by long-term, well-defined employment in a single organisation still exist, but their number is shrinking. Instead, jobs regularly change as organisations outsource to suitable locations (onshore and offshore) for optimal outcome. Technology has lowered the barrier for entry and enables entrepreneurs and small organisations (6 to 10 people) to trade locally, nationally and globally. These small organisations and entrepreneurs will continue to grow in number and specialism to form micro-experts in the macro-economy5. In short, organisations will increasingly operate and collaborate within a global networked economy of differing sizes. We need to ask what we are doing in our
colleges to take account of this changing employment landscape. The nature of the work we do has started to change as described by Coplin in Business Reimagined.6 Coplin argues that the source of organisational competitiveness is to enable people to be fully engaged, fully creative and productive.

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His answer involves:

Empowering employees to work anywhere, anytime of their choosing.
Enabling employees to leverage their collective knowledge by creating culture of transparency and collaboration.
A management style that empowers employees to have shared ownership and accountability.

We need to ask whether our colleges are adjusting their internal culture to create the competitiveness that Coplin refers to. Fundamental shifts have occurred before in the industrial age but this time the pace of change is significantly faster as technology makes it easier to try out new business models.

“Individuals with the right skills will capture a significant proportion of wealth whilst the remainder face shrinking opportunities with lower earnings”

In this landscape, Coplin advocates that education should become more destinationoriented, focusing on where students will get employment or start companies as well as acquiring formal vocational skills. This involves a change of emphasis away from simple acquisition of qualifications to a more applied and commercially relevant real world approach. He argues that colleges need to equip students with long-lasting skills such as team working, digital fluency, and entrepreneurship as well as how to learn effectively as the foundation for their lifelong learning. College leaders, he suggests, need to create physical and technological environments that can support and deliver applied learning and competitive advantage. Coplin questions whether college leaders have the expertise, training and confidence to deliver technology change at the pace required.

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