Degree of “Certainty”- Adapting Learning Programs to Meet Changing Demands – TOP AFRICA NEWS

Gen Z and Gen Alpha might have been cut from the umbilical cord, but they are tethered by the proverbial cord that constantly keeps them connected to the digital world. Like the umbilical cord, 24/7 internet connectivity links the generation to a vast reservoir of information crucial for their personal and intellectual development. Just as the umbilical cord is essential for sustaining life before birth, the internet sustains their engagement with the world, fostering learning, creativity, and social interaction. 

Unlike previous generations, these young individuals are digital natives, immersed in an environment where the internet, social media, and instant communication are integral to daily life. This constant connectivity shapes their interactions, learning styles, and problem-solving approaches. They possess the ability to navigate digital platforms, seek information swiftly, and adapt to technological advancements. 

As such, the skills and competencies needed for their success differ significantly from those of earlier generations, requiring a rethinking of educational and professional development to include critical thinking, problem-solving, communications, etc.   

The 20th-century educational system was shaped by the Industrial Age, focusing on conformity, standardisation, and rote learning. Classrooms were teacher-centred, with students mainly absorbing information passively. The rigid curriculum focused less on critical thinking and creativity and more on memorisation and repetitive tasks. This method was effective for its time, preparing students for stable, well-defined jobs in the industrial and early post-industrial eras.

However, as the digital revolution took hold towards the end of the century, the limitations of this education system became increasingly apparent. Graduates were often unprepared for the demands of a rapidly evolving job market that valued problem-solving, adaptability, and digital skills.

In contrast to the previous century, 21st-century skills encompass a broad set of abilities crucial in a globalised, information-enabled, and increasingly AI-driven society. These include critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, agility and adaptability, communication skills, an analytical mindset, and curiosity. 

For Gen Z and Gen Alpha, a career-long learning mindset is essential. Unlike previous generations, they are entering a world where professional roles evolve rapidly, and new industries are born from technological advancements. This means learning must extend beyond early life.

The trajectory of professional qualifications is evolving rapidly. A single degree might have sufficed for career entry and progression in the past; however, as we move further into the 21st century, the criteria for job readiness and advancement are shifting dramatically. This change is largely driven by the pace at which technology and globalisation are transforming industries.

Traditional degrees are still valuable and will continue to be so in the future, but a range of specialised certifications and micro-credentials will likely supplement them. These credentials prove an individual’s ongoing commitment to learning and mastery in specific skill areas. As a result, resumes will not just list degrees and work experience but become dynamic portfolios of certifications demonstrating competency and expertise.

This shift towards certification-rich resumes reflects a broader trend where employers value diverse skills and adaptability. Educational institutions are recognising these shifts and also focusing on training students for these certifications. In a path-breaking move, the University of Johannesburg recently became an Authorised Training Partner for the PMI-CP certification and will soon start training individuals.    

Looking ahead, it is clear that the educational and professional landscapes are aligning more closely with the needs of a rapidly changing marketplace. For Gen Z and Gen Alpha, building a career will mean accumulating diverse skills, demonstrating a commitment to career-long learning, and adapting to new challenges. 

This shift in how skills are earned marks a fundamental change in preparing for the future of work. While this can be overwhelming for individuals, educational institutions and employers can provide support for professional development through memberships in professional associations, ensuring they stay current, access mentors, and network.  

George Asamani, MD, Sub-Saharan Africa, Project Management Institute

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