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As the Autumn term starts, Prosper spoke to Professor Clare Schofield, Director, University of Wolverhampton Business School  about education, skills and the future world of work?


The arrival of autumn signals new beginnings for those of us that work in education. However, the start of the new academic year in 2021 is like no other that I can remember because we will be returning to campus just as we are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic.  


Evidence suggests that both business leaders and employees are considering the future of their organisations and roles based on their experiences in the last eighteen months. It has been a period of intense change where we have had to develop and use new skills and processes.

At the same time, we have also been looking after our own physical and mental wellbeing, as well as those close to us including colleagues and customers. 


The pace of change was already accelerating before the pandemic because of the availability and adoption of new technologies, the need to adapt to the climate emergency as well as demographic, political and socioeconomic shifts. Most of us have had to learn to work in different ways and adapt rapidly in the way we communicate, travel and live.  


From a review of the latest research and economic intelligence, a picture is emerging of the types of skills and competencies that will be important for our future. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported in June that higher cognitive skills like accurate decision making were of increasing value to employers and earned a salary premium for employees as a result.  


Similarly, the World Economic Forum’s third edition of their “Future of Jobs” report published in October 2020 argued that automation and new technology would continue to change the world of work.


In terms of skills, they highlighted critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving as those being the most in-demand. Their research suggested that business leaders expected their employees to need to re-skill so interpersonal skills like flexibility, resilience and active learning would be prominent in the next five years.


The pandemic has brought inequalities into sharp focus, so employers need to ensure that they take an inclusive approach to workforce development. 


In terms of graduates, the Skills for the Future (S4F) project coordinated by the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES) identified adaptability, communication and the ability to collaborate as being the essential skills for future success.


Although they are by no means new skills, they are increasingly important in a world of job insecurity and change. These skills transcend technical knowledge and competencies that can easily become out of date due to the rapid pace of innovation.  


The way and where we work has changed for many people in the last eighteen months and leaders and managers are deciding which working practices, they want to become a permanent feature of their future.


Sustainability, especially as we prepare for the UN Climate Conference in October, has become a more dominant issue and there are opportunities for growth in green jobs over the next decade. 


From my own experience as the Director of the Business School at the University of Wolverhampton my team and I have learned many new skills and ways of working that we want to retain and develop further.


However, as a team, we have also spent the last eighteen months considering our students’ future because they will be the driving force of change in business and industry in the future.  


As a Business School, we need to ensure that their university experience equips them with the knowledge, skills and experiences they will need to succeed in their studies but also for their future.  


The University of Wolverhampton has just launched an ambitious new institutional strategy providing a vision for the next decade to 2030.


As part of the development of Vision 2030, we had been invited to consider not just the future of business education but the future of business over the next decade and beyond. The Business School entered the first lockdown in March 2020 after we had already made a commitment to undertake a whole-school curriculum review.


As a team we spent time reviewing the achievements of our alumni and considered how we could secure that success in the future. Reflecting on the latest research and working in partnership with all of the professional bodies that accredit our courses we devised a new strategy that would enable our future students to thrive in an uncertain world. 


The Business School’s mission is to educate and develop the responsible business professionals, leaders and entrepreneurs that we need for a sustainable future. We will achieve this by delivering a curriculum that is underpinned by four pillars.

The first is sustainability so we have committed to embedding in our courses the need to develop strategies for sustainable growth that are alert to the global climate emergency and consumer demand for environmentally sustainable solutions to opportunities and challenges.  


The second pillar is responsibility and professionalism because of the recognition that it is important to become a responsible business professional, leader or entrepreneur with values and ethics that inspire professionalism and responsible behaviour, outcomes and impact.  


The third pillar is entrepreneurship and innovation because entrepreneurial graduates will recognise the importance of agile thinking, resilience, motivation and communication.


We will embed critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as the need to understand how the different functions of an organisation work together strategically and operationally to deliver sustainable impact and organisational objectives.  


The fourth and final pillar is digital and analytical because data and analytics are vital to effective business strategy. Our graduates will develop the knowledge and skills to be analytical by understanding the importance of metrics, data, information and insights that form the basis of effective decision making and forecasting that underpin effective organisational strategies.   


For those looking to up-skill or re-skill the ability to study flexibly and alongside work or family commitments is essential so this year we have launched a suite of fully online courses.  


The purpose of the courses is to develop capable senior leaders for public, private, and not-for-profit organisations who are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and behaviours to lead modern organisations ethically and sustainably, both in national and international business.  


There are options to learn about leadership, artificial intelligence, finance, entrepreneurship and psychology.


Our MBA Psychology course is delivered 100% online and it is accredited by the Association for Business Psychology (ABP) and enables you to automatically achieve CertBP status on graduation. It equips you with a comprehensive knowledge of business practice combined with practical insights and an understanding of how to manage employees through times of crisis. 


Autumn 2021 will bring many colleagues back together both in person and digitally after an extended time apart.


However, some employees and businesses will take the opportunity for a fresh start and there are plenty of opportunities to develop the jobs and skills of the future. Contact the University of Wolverhampton to learn how we can support you. 

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