Of all the ways in which this current global pandemic has turned life as we know it upside down, the upheaval of education in all of its forms has earned its place as a hallmark. From the challenges faced by teachers, parents, and students alike with schools closed, to the uncertainty awaiting high school graduates planning to attend universities, to the turbulent economy welcoming college graduates entering the job market, the disruption of education may just be one of the most far-reaching phenomena felt around the world.
In emerging markets, economic turbulence isn’t as novel. Rising unemployment rates and an increasing skills gap between job seekers and employers have been major challenges for countries and cities with growing economies for decades. At the same time, in these same markets, digital platforms from online education to social media had already begun to transform the way their populations absorb, digest, and disseminate information long before our lives were so abruptly and universally disrupted.
Nevertheless, nearly everywhere, students and educators alike have arrived at a weighty crossroads: Is this a time to abandon or change hopes and dreams, or are we facing the biggest opportunity of our lifetime to fundamentally reshape the way we think about, develop, and value education systems around the world?
If you ask entrepreneurs leading education companies in emerging markets, they’re likely to tell you that very few of these challenges are new, though exacerbated by the circumstances. From Mexico to Malaysia, edtech entrepreneurs have already begun tackling how to build a better, more equitable education system by disrupting our preconceived notions about what education should be and designing platforms and programs that speak to relevant skills that today’s economy needs. It is these entrepreneurs who are building many of the tools that will hold the answers for us going forward.
Depending on which edtech founder you ask, they will tell you that openness to, advancement and adoption of edtech has accelerated ten years in the last six months. The bridge between learning institutions and the labor market is expanding to pave the way for all types of new foot traffic and it is no longer a one way street — learning never stops, and accepting that is the first step toward reaching an adequately skilled workforce.
As Global Manager of the Education Portfolio at Endeavor, I have the privilege of working with the founders of high-growth edtech companies around the world that are leading this movement. Endeavor’s Education Portfolio includes 44 companies across 17 markets disrupting the delivery of education beginning in early childhood development all the way through lifelong learning. I believe that resilience and ingenuity will be competencies gained across society at this time — a mindset that has the potential to boost thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world.
What role can edtech companies play in the context of a widening skills gap during a pandemic? How will skills training models evolve, and what adjacent sectors need to form in tandem to facilitate massive adoption? Seeking a global context, I asked four Endeavor Entrepreneurs to share their perspectives on the future of work.
What Education Can Learn From Instagram
Freddy Vega is the founder of Platzi, an EdTech platform that offers online courses in design, marketing and programming taught by tech industry leaders to help Hispanics develop professional tech skills.
“If education were a washing machine, the pandemic was a brick thrown inside.” Traditional ways of teaching will no longer work. A stark example of this is the rapid evolution of corporate learning. A decade ago it was a toy that large corporations used to give their employees a paid holiday and improve their retention rates. Now, as their employees struggle to lead meetings on Zoom and transition to remote work, these employers are paying the price. It is as simple as this: if you cannot train your employees, your business will not thrive. If this is not enough, numerous studies have found that it is cheaper to train the talent you currently have than to find talent at market price in a tech-first world.
Accreditation is one of the messiest issues to be tackled in the industry. With so many new and diverse forms of learning, how do you recognize the value of any given course? In a just world companies would have a technical test for each role to solve for the bias given to students who have completed pricey MBAs or equivalents. Platzi has stealthily avoided the challenges associated with the lack of established credentialing systems for as long as it can — we have focused on tech skills training, an expertise in which you can show what you are able to do through the portfolio you have built. By encouraging our learners to take courses on soft skill development in tandem, Platzi has fostered a community of learners which gives us an edge in brand recognition, a proxy — for now — for accreditation.
The skills gap in the US could create more willingness to hire outside the US and spend money in places like Latin America. My prediction is as MBAs become less desired, the new generation of executives will be former founders. Although they may carry a certain degree of Founder PTSD — showing reluctance to repeat prior mistakes, the skills gained along the way in founding a company go beyond the formal lecture halls of business schools.
One question to challenge traditional education leaders is — how do we teach in the same way that Instagram makes people fixate on its stories? I want to be clear that I don’t mean edu-tainment, not all learning needs to be fun. My finding has been that the differentiator for effective edtech companies is integrating a community of learners to engage and hold each other accountable in self regulated systems and behaviors that force them to learn.
Intentional Communities Drive Innovation
Chiara Russo is the Co-founder of Codemotion, a multichannel platform that supports tech developers in their professional growth, connects them to employment opportunities, and fosters engaging tech communities for developers. The communities are comprised of tech enthusiasts who share similar interests such as Java, AI, blockchain, etc. Today, Codemotion’s network encompasses 300+ strategic partners, 300+ tech communities and reaches more than 500K developers across Europe.
A strong tech community is the foundation of any entrepreneurial ecosystem that promotes the launching and scaling of new innovative ideas. Great people with great ideas can launch companies, but in order for any company to grow and thrive, founders need access to talented people. A pillar of tech communities are meet ups — a gathering place for engineers with specific interests to go and find their people, loosen up, and learn from others.
Codemotion’s mission is to create the largest, most impactful and most inclusive community of developers across Europe, and to support those professionals in creating real impact in the world. In other words, communities are our beating heart. Communities are also living beings. They go through multiple stages of growth, attract different kinds of members, and eventually take the form of a movement at which point the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. We have found that a few fundamental pillars to success are: clear community values, being host to the most relevant activities, extending the sense of ownership and belonging to members, and creating tangible career outcomes.
It is impossible for formal and even online education to stay up to date with emerging technologies and trends. Communities not only offer the environment to discover and learn the newest technologies from peers in an informal and dynamic way, they also become a hotbed for companies to find the best tech talent. It is within these groups that real innovation is generated for the benefit of all, careers are advanced, ideas are shared, and new projects are launched. While strong tech communities are an indicator of an entrepreneurial scene, they are also a catalyzing factor of growth as they in turn become magnets for more engineers. Codemotion is enabling this growth, and it’s thanks to these communities that Codemotion continues to grow!
The Case for Corporate Education
Andrew Barnes is the Co-founder & CEO of Go1, an online education platform that aims to lower the barriers of entry to high quality, professional learning. With Go1 companies are able to upskill their workforce with on-demand training. Headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, Go1 has offices in six countries and global sales reach.
Technology is a fulcrum for change. I think about one of our co-founders, Vu Tran, and his time at medical school many years ago. He learned anatomy from two dimensional pictures in a textbook. Today a medical student can put on a set of VR goggles and learn the anatomy of the heart right in front of them. AR, VR, machine learning are examples of technologies that will change the face of learning. The fundamentals of education will be the same: we will continue to rely on subject matter experts to provide information. But the way we access it might be different.
We’re seeing a growing awareness from both the private and public sectors of the need to invest in lifelong learning. The traditional investment in education between the ages of 5 to 25 is important, but there is a growing awareness of the need to think about whole-of-life learning, particularly as industries undergo significant changes and people need to gain new skills later in life. Credentialing (and micro-credentialing) is a key part of this as there may be less of a need — or indeed the time availability — for individuals to undergo lengthy qualifications.
There’s a clear financial case for companies investing in corporate training: on average, it costs at least three times more to recruit compared to training or upskilling an employee. This doesn’t even touch on the other benefits from investing in your existing team. Organizations are well aware of the higher upfront costs (and related hidden costs) associated with hiring. At Go1, we’ve seen many companies that we work with need to pare down staff. The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate between regions, and as a result the need for reskilling and upskilling to find or maintain employment has been a universal need during these times.
The Jobs of the Future are Now the Jobs of Today
Nelson Duboscq is the Co-founder & CEO of Digital House, an educational organization that transforms people’s lives, developing digital skills so that they generate an impact in society. Digital House offers face-to-face, blended and 100% remote training under an innovative practice-based methodology.
The pandemic revealed a phenomenon that already existed: Organizations need collaborators with digital skills, but these profiles are scarce. Today more than ever, companies are reaching consumers in their homes through digital products such as mobile apps and websites. In Latin America alone, e-commerce has grown 300% since the beginning of the year. That is why, while Latin America struggles with high unemployment rates and more than 25 million people out of work, there remains an increasing demand for positions in Digital Marketing, Data Analytics, UX designers, or specialists in AI, to name just a few examples. The “jobs of the future” are now the “jobs of the present,” and education must catch up.
On the one hand, Latin America has long experienced high-dropout rates — which can reach up to 50% in primary and secondary school — and outdated curricula. On the other, distance learning programs, gaining in popularity, do not offer academic excellence or guarantee the rapid employability of their graduates.
The future of education must be planned in such a way that students not only receive training in high-demand skills, but also effectively learn the foundations that will enable them to engage with learning throughout their lives — curiosity, analytical thinking, and an entrepreneurial mindset. This student-centered philosophy guides us at Digital House, where we seek to provide students with the education needed to ensure their employability through a practice-based learning method whereby anyone can be trained in as little as 5 months. At Digital House we bring the classroom experience to the remote format, utilizing a blended format of both remote and face-to-face classes. With the pandemic, many people lost their fear of technology. As we continue to see exponential growth in our enrollment numbers, I believe remote education holds enormous promise for changing the way we think about schooling the next generation.
You can reach Sophie Kronk on LinkedIn here.