In my application for HEA fellowship that I finished yesterday (yay!), one of the areas of professional values was "acknowledge the wider context in which higher education operates, recognising the implications for professional practice." I talked about the rise of international recruitment, as that's the area I know best from my research & my work with the University marketing department's International Office. This morning I came across another, more expansive consideration of this context--our society's future HE needs in the new economy.
Former US Ambassador to Australia and Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board chair Jeffrey Bleich gave this keynote address back in March--it's a bit long but worth the read. He offers a compelling explanation for last year's political shifts (Brexit & Trump, among others), and moves on to describe a broader vision for the future global economy. With regards to higher education specifically, he notes that if people are going to be trained to use current technology, they are also going to need retraining throughout their lives to keep up with the constant technological advancements and changes--especially if they are going to live longer and work longer.
"Universities may become less a way station for youth, than a life-long subscription service, with frequent retrainings."
I love this concept, not least because I've always loved school and can't imagine anything better than going back to it for the rest of my life. The concept of life-long learning is something my grandfather demonstrated to me from an early age. He loved--and used--the dictionary, thesaurus and encyclopedia. He watched BBC World Service on PBS and listened to Seattle's classical music radio station. He would've loved Wikipedia.
Bleich's concept aligns with what we're seeing in a lot of people's careers in the modern economy--people don't just do one thing, follow one career path anymore. It's increasingly rare to see someone work for the same company for 40 years. Trump and his supporters think that was a good system, that 40 years of mining was a great career, rather than a cause of black lung disease. I saw an interview where his supporters in Pennsylvania were excited about the new Acosta coal mine. They echoed the same ideas about hope that Bleich mentioned in his address:
"We feel like we've been thrown away. Our children don't matter, our grandchildren don't matter. And when Trump mentioned us, that was awesome."
I feel for the coal communities--I've been there, my grandfather grew up in West Virginia, and I get it--but going back to coal mining isn't the solution. This new mine is expected to provide 70-150 jobs--that's not going to restore a community that's been hit by thousands of layoffs. And how long is it going to last? They need long-term, sustainable solutions to their employment problems, not a short-term, partial resurrection of a dead industry.
--Investment in green technologies
--Retraining for green jobs
--Infrastructure (one of the interviewees mentioned their broadband infrastructure, among others)