Can academia keep up with the future of work?

To get work in the future, you have to reskill yourself at an ever-increasing pace. Incoming talent is rated on hyper current skills, experience and connections - not just degrees. The mismatch of talent supply and demand leaves organisations crippled and individuals unemployed. Digitalisation is rapidly transforming the workplace. Is institutional education keeping up with the pace?
Four smiling men posing in front of a colorful graffiti wall.
Superlect founders with Jabril Ashe, who teaches programming on YouTube, in San Diego / photo: Sampo Leino

The employment landscape is changing

We’re moving to an era of more personal freedom and responsibility in the workplace. Each employee is allowed to operate more like an entrepreneur -  independently recognising opportunities and solving challenges. Values play a major role in motivating self-driven action. Managers don’t just deal out tasks - they act as coaches, peers and mentors. Companies are desperate to steer their corporate cultures towards this idea to stay competitive.

These are some of the facts of the future of work:

  1. Digitalisation destroys old jobs and creates new opportunities
  2. The freelance economy is making long term careers a thing of the past
  3. Working, learning and transferring knowledge is becoming more interconnected and constant

Disruptive changes to business models will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years.

World Economic Forum - The Future of Jobs Report

Academia and work-life: two separate worlds?

Academia and working life can sometimes be at odds with wildly different goals, rewards, validation and cultures. When something becomes valuable in the market, demand for new talent spikes. It can take years before an institution runs through its process, launches its curriculum, and first students graduate to meet the demand.

Professors and students alike can be disconnected from working life. I’ve seen tech students graduate only to find out that the platform they studied is already dead. Students can graduate with underdeveloped business networks or without commercial experience, which is frustrating and a huge waste of resources.

How can we help students leap from school to work?

We need to break out of our comfort zone. Delivering slides and evaluating assignments doesn’t cut it. We need to spark excitement, help students forge professional connections and guide them forward on their path of lifelong learning. Act less like the managers of the past and more like the mentors of the future:

  1. Forge personal connections with professionals and start projects with real deliverables (think like an entrepreneur)
  2. Connect, encourage and reward students' commercial projects
  3. Share the responsibility of learning and teaching - create assignments with no predefined correct answers and then ask your students to teach forward their learnings
  4. Stay curious, vulnerable and courageous - embrace diving into unfamiliar territory, making mistakes and emerging a bit wiser


Sampo Leino

Sampo Leino is an ad agency director turned startup entrepreneur. He is the CMO and co-founder of Superlect the open platform for professional learning. Sampo is passionate about using technology and creative problem solving to make a positive impact on people's lives. Throughout his career, Sampo has actively shared his learnings through talks, seminars and workshops believing the privilege and responsibility of teaching belongs to everybody.

Teaching Lab  — Designing future-proof education
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