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How to educate the next workforce

Impact Council members shared their thoughts on the future of education.

The Fast Company Impact Council, an invitation-only group of corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and other leaders from across industries, gathered on June 30 to share their reflections on recent trends and events. Like other leaders in this current moment, they are grappling with a global pandemic, outcry over social injustice, and a volatile economy.


In this roundtable discussion led by editorial director Jill Bernstein, top executives discussed Educating the Next Workforce. Participants were (in alphabetical order) Ana Bakshi, director of the Oxford Foundry at the University of Oxford; Rachel Carlson, CEO and cofounder of Guild Education; Abby Falik, CEO and founder of Global Citizen Year; Laura Ipsen, CEO of Ellucian; Tom Kolditz, director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University; Brian McCarthy, partner at McKinsey & Company; Alexandra Stanton, CEO of Empire Global Ventures; and Steven Wolfe Pereira, CEO of Encantos. Excerpts of the roundtable have been edited for length and clarity.


Steven Wolfe Pereira: [This is about] a shift from “education,” and the focus on standardization and testing, to a focus on “learning.” If this is going to be the AI [artificial intelligence] era, and we know anything that can be automated will be, what are the fundamental 21st-century skills that [you need] no matter where you are on the lifelong-learner spectrum? We fundamentally need to rethink the skills that are being taught at every stage.


Laura Ipsen: I worry about the underserved and disadvantaged [students] who get set back, because of COVID in particular. My hope is that if we had a more agile, innovative way of education, where all the dots were connected, that we wouldn’t lose as many people, and there would be more opportunities. I think technology can solve for some of that, but it’s really the curiosity and the human part of education that we need more focus on.


We know how to digitize and create technologies for just about everything. Most institutions did an amazing job of getting students online; the places that they were struggling, it wasn’t the technology. [The question is] how do we get creative with the creative topics, and make sure that we keep education diverse and engaging for everyone?





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