Global Trends Impact Higher Education, Business and Working Learners

There are many global trends that impact how we live, learn and earn a living. Three of these trends that are bringing change now and will continue to impact the future are:
• Changing higher education enrollment
• Skills mismatch between employer expectation and graduates’ preparation
• Funding for Higher education Institutions
StudyPortals report Envisioning pathways to 2030 shows how these global trends will impact higher education, business and workers.

Changing higher education enrollments
Higher education enrollment rose from 100 million to 207 million students between 2000 and 2014. The largest growth in students enrolling in higher education has been in upper middle-income countries such as China, Turkey, Russia and Mexico, while enrollment in upper-middle-income countries, such as the UK, US, Australia and Canada has declined or was stagnant. High-income countries had a decline in enrollment.

The report predicts that 75 percent of global STEM graduates will come from “BRICS” nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa by 2030. This compares to 8 percent of the STEM graduates coming from the US and 4 percent from Europe.

As one of the global trends affecting businesses and their employees, this means that businesses may need to look to other countries to find the STEM employees they need. For working adults and students it means that STEM studies will offer them the in-demand skills that employers will search broadly for.

Skill mismatch between employer expectation and graduate preparation
The skills gap is among the global trends that could bring changes to higher education and students. A PayScale report explains the mismatch between the skills employers expect from graduates and graduates actual preparation for work. Katie Bardaro, PayScale VP of Data Analytics, says, “The data we’ve collected show that even though their education may make recent college graduates feel prepared to enter the workforce, only half of hiring managers agree with them; managers feel crucial skills in recent graduates are frequently lacking or absent.”

Sixty percent of managers felt that critical thinking and problem solving was the soft skill most graduates and 44 percent of managers thought writing proficiency was the hard skill most graduate lacked. This discrepancy impacts many stakeholders. It means that even though higher education institutions need work to align their programs with business demands, businesses will also have the need to train workers with specific skills. For workers continual education is an on-going reality. They must plan to be life-long learners to be able to work in a continually changing world. To compete with workers from across the globe workers must be able to solve problems and accept new responsibilities if part of their job is automated.

Funding for higher education
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that 10 years after the Great Recession state funding for higher education is still at low levels.

States spent 3.7 percent more on higher education in 2018-19 than they did the previous year. This represents a five-year trend in increasing state funding for higher education. However funding is still lower than it was in 2008 before the Great Recession. Reduced state funding means that schools rely on tuition for more of their operating costs. By 2017, for the first time ever, most states received more revenue from tuition than from state or national education funding. As a result students pay higher tuition rates, placing a greater financial burden on them.

Businesses that respond to this global trend and support higher education with tuition assistance programs are creating a benefit for their businesses and employees. For businesses this is an opportunity to bridge the skills mismatch and develop a workforce that will be able to compete in a global marketplace. For today’s nontraditional students and working adults, tuition assistance helps ease the financial burden of higher education and reinforces that continual education is key to being a prepared worker.

In the StudyPortals report Wendy Purcell, a professor at Harvard University and emeritus president and vice chair of Plymouth University in the U.K. states the importance of continuing education. “We need to see lifetime education as a key trend to rebalancing the global economy. We need to have higher education cultivate thinking, aliveness and creativity – we are moving beyond content into experience.”