Adjusting to a Changing World - How to Attract a New Generation

5 min read

Julia Sachs

In a fast-changing world, students exceedingly want new things from their educational institutions that can better prepare them for emerging industries and job markets after graduation.


The needs of students of the past may differ greatly from students of the present, as well as the students of the future that may be just beginning their search for the perfect University experience. 

In the worlds of technology, business and science, ever-expanding industries and innovations create new demands for an entire new generation of workforce. Without the right tools in college, though, students will be left behind after graduation to navigate an ever-changing workforce with a potentially outdated education. Here are some ways that institutions can better cater to emerging industries, as well as to what students of the future might be looking for in a college program. 


Business and STEM Programs


Schools with a heavy emphasis on STEM programs, as well as business programs, may find that students are increasingly interested in emerging markets, technology and science industries. Where things like 3D printing may have been of high interest several years ago, new degrees in Artificial Intelligence or Blockchain may be of interest to an emerging student body. 


Schools like Wharton, for example, are seeing an increasing amount of interest in fields like Blockchain and Bitcoin as cryptocurrencies and the promise of a booming Web3 industry arise. Dozens of students at Cornell signed up for an advanced, PhD-level course on Blockchain in 2017 amid a historic cryptocurrency bull market. Now, with mass adoption from some of the globe’s major investors and corporations in the early 2020’s signals an even bigger, more historic rise in interest for the emerging industry. 


In other technologies such as augmented reality or advances within the medical field, students are more interested than ever in breaking into these fields. Interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning is up, according to the AI Index 2019 Report from Stanford University. As jobs in the field increase, particularly among high-paying technology companies looking for blossoming experts in the field at universities around the world, more students are flocking to what will become a globalized industry. In global markets such as India and China, growing interest in machine learning degrees is forcing universities to change their curriculums as well. 


Within the medical and science fields, enrollment in various specialty degree programs surged amid the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Nursing became a popular degree program at many schools around the United States and beyond as a need for nurses increased, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Other news outlets have reported an increased interest in other STEM careers, such as those within the chemistry and biochemistry fields, amid the pandemics shift in student interest. With historic developments in the fields of vaccine research, for example, more students may be flocking to degree programs that can create positive change in the medical world. 


Additionally, with the impending climate crisis seemingly worsening by the season, student interest in fields that can directly combat climate change are growing as well. The climate crisis is reshaping every industry as we know it. Institutions are finding that this rapid change requires them to reshape their curriculum to accommodate a more sustainable future. This means rethinking virtually every field, from business and STEM industries to architecture, art, and even humanities. 


In business, emerging changes to the business landscape in the digital age is creating a shift in how students enter the career field after graduation. Where students once entered a career field filled with corporate offices and job interviews, they’re now seeing that many jobs are being replaced by gig work or freelance entrepreneurs. In social media, for example—though this is an industry that universities are just barely catching up to as it is—there is an emerging need for freelance contractors over full-time staffers. 


Amid what many experts called the Great Resignation of 2021 and beyond, an estimated 10  million workers are now considering a switch to a freelance career. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Upwork have shifted their services to accommodate what they consider a massive shift in industry operation. Where business schools once prepared students to enter the corporate world, many schools are now being urged to offer classes that cater to the emerging and growing gig economy. 


Other services incoming students might want: 


The global pandemic shifted virtually every industry as we know it. In education a shift to digital learning accelerated the needs for virtual learning softwares, services and technologies on campus that were previously either not there or not well developed. Even as the pandemic subsides and things go back to the way they were before, more students are finding that the virtual or hybrid learning environment may better suit their busy schedules. 


Just as corporations are finding that employees often prefer working from home, institutions are finding that many students benefit from online learning, particularly if they have jobs or families outside of school. To accommodate this shifting need, institutions are reconsidering which classes can be offered either virtually or as a hybrid learning opportunity. 


Outside of all of these suggestions are other accommodations that are becoming a norm both in education and the workforce. Things like enhanced resources for physical and mental health, particularly to avoid the risk of student burnout, are becoming more in-demand among new students. Other things like updated facilities, study abroad opportunities, alumni networking opportunities and a sense of community all play into the university experience, and can also be updated to merge with new industries and technologies as they develop. Just as students and individuals are expected to constantly shift with emerging markets, institutions and universities should work alongside these markets to assure that there is a steady path to these new opportunities through higher education. 

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