Today’s young people will have ‘episodic careers,’rather than one life-long career. Post-graduation, young people will have an estimated four jobs before they even turn 32, often switching into “entirely different industries”, according to a LinkedIn study. Indranil Roy, the head of the Deloitte-backed Future of Work Centre of Excellence, says,“A generation ago, the half-life of a skill was about 26 years, and that was the model for a career. Today, it’s four and half years and dropping.”
Furthermore, many of the careers of the future will be multidisciplinary. Big data scientists will specialize in areas such as agriculture, criminal justice, vehicle production, etc. This is already happening in nursing, with specialties in informatics, education, and administration. Technology may displace those with a “single skillset” but not those with expertise in multiple fields. Psychology Today says, “The chaos of today’s job market means job seekers must be flexible and adapt their talents to a variety of settings…in this economy, you really can’t focus on just one job or career plan….You need to consider a variety of Possible Lives.”
In this context it is concerning that in 2018 55% of NWC’s sophomores through seniors with a declared major did not have a second major or a minor and that of those who did, the second major or the minor was closely related to the major in over 55% of cases. To succeed in the economy of tomorrow, students will need to pursue advanced knowledge in multiple areas of interest.
Ideas from Other Institutions
Many institutions have begun or are at least considering tailoring their general education requirements around pathways to ensure students build knowledge in multiple fields. Pathways, which are generally sequenced across the four years, group required general education coursework into “socially relevant themes for a more meaningful undergraduate experience.” Hiram College’s pathways focus on the environment, human flourishing, and identity. USC Chico established its pathways in a manner that allows the “the nine-credit requirement in an upper-level pathway” to lead to a minor in that area. Smaller schools, such as Nebraska Wesleyan, allow students to take coursework in two themes, which helps with scheduling and finding enough faculty interested in teaching courses on the themes.
Other schools, such as the College of Idaho, are grappling with these changes in the job market by requiring a minor unrelated to the student’s major. NWC students in those areas which require a high number of credits (e.g., nursing) could be required to earn an interdisciplinary certificate.
Suggestions for Northwestern
NWC should consider requiring a minor/certificate and updating the structure of the general education curriculum to require a pathway in addition to a major. Departments and colleges would be encouraged to work together to develop coursework around common themes relevant to today’s society, such as social justice (sociology, political science, philosophy) or the environment (history, English, biology).
Goal 3.3 – Pursue strategic enrollment growth – Develop and resource an integrated marketing strategy that enhances Northwestern College’s reputation for intellectual rigor, vocational success, and select programs of strength.