What is the future of working professional education?

The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) published research which addresses how business education needs to evolve to keep pace with changing demands and expectations about professional development from both students and their employers over the next five years and beyond.

working professional education

The study draws on new original qualitative research from in-depth interviews with relevant decision makers at international business schools and within major employers who invest in working professional development. It also involved a survey of over 300 individual learners who were looking to take business school courses in the next five years.

“The relationship between employees and employers has been evolving for some time, and this study opens up what that means for the future of working professional education. Economic uncertainty, online learning, lifelong development, remote working, and digital transformation in business schools and other organizations are not new.

“However, the global pandemic is accelerating these trends. Our sector will benefit from a healthy and honest debate about how future ways of learning and work can help leaders in business and business education find new answers to the problems of our time,” said Michael Desiderio, executive director of EMBAC.

Working professional education: Key findings

  • 38% of individual learners said they rated blended learning (face to face and online) as their ideal skills development path for the next five years.
  • When choosing a business school, the top requirements are flexibility in how learning is delivered (45%), how much the school embraces digital transformation (42%) and how much the program will accelerate career prospects (37%).
  • More than three quarters of employer respondents believe that business schools need to develop short, inexpensive programs that deliver relevant skills for those working and be clear about how their offer positively impacts our wider society, not just the business industry.
  • While employers agree that leadership remains an important skill for development, new leadership models are emerging that have stronger roots in “soft skills” such as emotional intelligence, more agility and conscious, continuous learning.
  • Employers also point out that as the workforce ages, one of the most frequently sought-after development programs is how to manage effectively across generations since attitudes and lifestyles can vary significantly.

Fundamental shifts in the workforce were already taking place

While the COVID-19 may have accelerated change in the workforce, fundamental shifts were already taking place. There is no one-size fits all solution with the different circumstances – economic, political and social – having a significant impact on the approach that a school decides to take.

However, it is clear that institutions will need to evolve from the focus on quantity of degrees awarded to becoming a learning partner to companies and organizations; keenly understanding the needs of both the workforce and individual industries.




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