By Daniel Garza, Director of Program Strategy and Operations
This post was originally published on LinkedIn.
What does the workplace look like in Texas over the next ten years? And what does the future student need to learn in order to thrive in that environment? At the University of Texas System, we recently undertook a major research project to understand the employment market, unearth future skill gaps and equip our students with the tools to succeed in our evolving economy.
Where did we start?
We referenced various data sources and studied occupational groups used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other government organizations. We also factored in future growth using investment data from government and financial industry sources.
The Top 6 Occupation groups we identified:
- Business and financial operations
- Computer and mathematical
- Education, training and library
- Healthcare practitioners and technical
- Architecture and engineering
Within these groups specific, fast-growing occupations were highlighted. These growth jobs included :
- Computer systems analysts
- Market research analysts
- Information security analysts
- Physical therapists
- Educational administrators & Health specialties teachers (both post and secondary)
Data only tells some of the story
We discovered that secondary research and qualitative feedback from industry sources is vital to get a true picture of what is happening in the employment market. While technical skills are certainly needed in key occupations, such as computer science and data analysis, other skill gaps only really emerged via the secondary and qualitative research we conducted.
‘Soft skills’ need greater focus
Many business leaders highlighted a “soft skills” gap, with clear writing and communications skills cited as being vital tools for the workplace. Business leaders are also looking for students to demonstrate a better grasp of critical reasoning.
The impact of demographic changes on program development
The aging population overall, and a growing young Hispanic population, will undoubtedly impact the programs offered in the state. In Texas, residents over 65 are expected to triple in number by 2050, exceeding 19% of the total population. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population is expected to increase in Texas to 22.3 million by 2050 (source :US census). From the ‘encore career’ student embarking on a new career at 55, to the young Hispanic student who needs a clearly defined pathway to access a degree program, the challenges of a changing Texan and US demographic present new and exciting opportunities.
Employers and colleges need closer working relationships
Employers highlighted the need to add greater “real life” experience to college programs. Interviewees cited a need for more focus on competition and collaboration, both concepts that are central to the workplace. Some interviewees cited a need for more competency learning programs, ‘micro credentialing’, and programs developed jointly by employers and colleges to meet specific hiring needs.
So what will the future student look like?
The work highlighting demographic changes to the population coupled with primary market experience of research partner, Kiosk, led us to the development of student profiles that we will now consider for future program development.
We have a better picture of what these people will want — and in many cases need — to study in order to compete in the job market. We also understand more about the ways in which they will want to study, as we move towards competency-based, online learning models.
Demographically, 17–20 year olds will still exist in big numbers, but ‘lifelong learning’ is the next big challenge to embrace. People are living longer, healthier, more economically valuable lives. They are going to move from career to career whether through circumstance or a desire to experience something new. Therefore, retraining, or simply learning new work skills will become the norm.