AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Higher Education Leaders Discuss the Future of Work

The rapidly changing job market and declining enrollment rates are forcing higher education leaders to rethink strategies for attracting students and helping them find jobs. At a private Amazon Web Services (AWS) Institute roundtable, 22 university and community college leaders agreed that they must adopt new models for success – including close collaboration with large employers, innovating beyond degrees with new certifications, and using technology to enhance students’ learning experiences.

Community colleges and four-year universities offer promising models for workforce development, and many see working with AWS and other technology firms as an opportunity to innovate and provide new pathways to jobs. The Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Cloud Associate Degree, designed in collaboration with AWS Educate, is an example. NOVA analyzed public data on the local job market and deduced that there was significant demand for professionals in the growing field of information technology (IT) – including cloud computing and cybersecurity. NOVA then designed a two-year degree in partnership with AWS to train the future generation of cloud practitioners.

Another successful example of academic-employer collaboration is Arizona State University’s work with Starbucks, offering employees the opportunity to earn degrees through ASU online, at a reduced tuition cost. Also, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia is working with subject-matter experts from industry to train their students.

The second challenge facing most higher education institutions is how to move beyond traditional degrees and introduce alternative credentials that meet their students’ career goals. Alternative credentialing opens up access to new fields, quickly reskills students in fast-changing fields like IT, and eases time commitment and cost constraints. In return, the flexibility offered allows students from diverse economic backgrounds to participate in higher education – a key concern for most higher education leaders.

No matter where they are in their efforts to upgrade their course offerings, universities and colleges recognize the need to use technology in order to engage and retain their students. Some universities, like University of Oklahoma (OU), are adopting voice technology to provide helpful information to their students. They also use those devices to obtain student feedback on their college experience, allowing educators to immediately identify student concerns and offer support as needed. OU is also putting these technologies in the hands of their students – encouraging them to develop applications and innovative solutions to problems they face on campus. According to educators, these strategies are improving retention rates and helping them reverse declining enrollment rates.