Real-life project collaborations and the digital skills gap
A guest blog post for The Edtech Podcast, by Georgina Dick, Community Engagement Manager at ProjectSet | Twitter: @ProjectSetUK
The skills gap remains one of the most critical challenges in the world of higher education. According to The Harvard Business Review “59% of surveyed hiring managers and 89% of executives reported difficulty recruiting candidates with the requisite soft skills”.
The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a rapid digitisation of the education sector, which presents a unique opportunity to address this challenge. The higher education industry has seen years of evolution condensed into a matter of months, as they adapted to provide for the many learners who were forced to move online in the wake of the pandemic.
Specialised businesses, such as ProjectSet, a London-based social enterprise, are rising to the challenge of equipping higher students with employability skills at scale, through the application of technology. ProjectSet set up a purpose-built digital platform to provide university students with work-based learning opportunities that builds soft skills. On ProjectSet, students can connect with employers and educators to collaborate virtually on Internships, Hackathons or University Course Projects.
The evolving technology landscape also presents an opportunity to innovate new engagement models that are consistent with the emerging worlds of education and work. For example, ProjectSet’s part-time, project-based engagement models builds critical skills for the future of work (e.g. remote work, project management, etc.) and curates a digital portfolio for fresh talent. It also allows SMEs and large employers to strengthen skill-based recruitment in disadvantaged communities by dismantling the traditional high-fixed cost structure for recruiting interns.
The emerging technology models also allow for employers to extract more value from these programs. For example, employers can run theme-focused hackathons to crowd-source innovative ideas. Large UK employers, such as Microsoft, Cisco and others, use virtual hackathons to stimulate innovation. Bupa, BT, Nestle and Schneider Electric recently co-sponsored Projectset’s UniHack 2020 where cross-university student groups collaborated with employers to develop solutions that tackle pressing global issues, such as climate change, mental health and workplace diversity.
Finally, these new technologies will likely drive innovation in pedagogy as well. For example, Kingston University collaborated with ProjectSet to utilise their project-based learning tools. The partnership created university modules, which encouraged students to apply their knowledge to real work-life scenarios in collaboration with employers. Such approaches are known to make learning more collaborative and engaging. Kingston University’s Employment Engagement Advisor, Lewis Sawyer, says “A huge thank you to the ProjectSet team for listening to my needs as a client and answering queries when they came up. I definitely plan to use it again for other schemes my university run.”
Thanks to Georgina for sharing this work. Our earlier episode on The Early Careers Market might provide some good context to this blog post >>>