Brent Hurley, Portfolio Manager for Strategic Change, writes for The Scotsman 

Date posted

7 April 2020


No more jobs for life! That’s a phrase used with increasing frequency. The days of going straight from school or University into a particular career, often with a single employer, are long gone. Not only is there a trend towards people working for multiple employers over their lifetime, but towards having multiple careers.

Our world is rapidly changing, and the next decade will be the most disruptive yet. Go back 20 years, and some of the most valuable companies in the world included General Electric, Cisco, Intel and Exxon Mobile. Fast forward to today and they have been displaced by the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

This drive towards technology is reflected in advances in areas like Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, blockchain, cyber security, big data and artificial intelligence (AI). Research by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that by 2030 automation could displace up to 30% of the global workforce, but many studies also highlight new career opportunities. New technology means many of the jobs of today did not even exist 10 years ago, and the jobs of the future have not yet been invented.

portrait of Brent Hurley 

As we adapt to this fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, there are rapidly changing demands on our workforce. Skills such as emotional intelligence, creativity and data literacy will be much sought after by employers in the future, and flexibility and adaptability will become increasingly essential. It is envisaged that nine in 10 workers may need some kind of upskilling by 2030, with many experiencing a major career change.

The Scottish Government has responded to the changing landscape by prioritising ‘Upskilling and Retraining’, making funding available to Higher Education institutes through the Scottish Funding Council via an ‘Upskilling Fund’. At Edinburgh Napier, we are proud of our reputation for the applied nature of our learning, teaching and research, leading to graduate employability of over 95%, so we considered ourselves well placed to respond to this opportunity.

Our Senior Vice Principal, Professor Alistair Sambell, challenged us to deliver a flexible, innovative and diverse course offering; one that is aligned to Scotland’s Future Skills Action Plan and which meets the needs of busy people in a variety of professions, looking to enhance existing knowledge, pick up new skills or change career. Moreover, it comes at no cost to participants.

We began by offering 10 short courses online at level 11 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), the national system for all levels of qualification in Scotland. They cover a wide variety of in demand topics including Project Management; Financial Management Decision Making; Managing Innovation; Global Marketing; and Leadership, Strategy and Innovation. The diversity is perhaps best illustrated by picking out two very different examples: Data Wrangling and Tourism.

What does Data Wrangling mean? Through our business-to-business and customer interactions, we are generating more corporate and personal data than we can process, so leveraging business potential from data has become extremely valuable. The aim of data wrangling is to take huge quantities of the data we generate, and transform it into a format that can be readily analysed. This analysis should lead to data informed decision making within organisations, creating significant business advantage.

Demand for Data Wrangling and other short courses was overwhelming, and outstripped supply threefold. We responded by offering an increased number of free spaces, and aim to build on this demand by offering further courses later in the year. 

In contrast, we have developed two tourism courses which will run at our Craiglockhart campus in the Autumn as blended face-to-face and online study, interactive learning and workshops. 

We are fortunate to be located in a city that is in itself a premier international destination. In ‘Sustainable, Entrepreneurial and Innovative Tourism Business Management’ the aim is to enhance business skills within the wider tourism sector, whilst ‘Destination Development and Leadership’ is aimed at promoting an understanding of the importance of destination leadership, development and management for individuals and businesses, both at a strategic level in local destinations and for Scotland.

A highly skilled workforce is essential for Scotland to keep its competitive advantage, and different models of education will be key to supporting individuals through careers that span new technology and new challenges.

Next up we will be running our ‘Business Start Up Virtual Boot Camp’ and developing a week long course on Quality Assurance for the life sciences sector. Going forward, we will seek to further expand this type of provision, and are excited by the opportunity it offers to upskill for the future world of work. 

This article originally appeared in The Scotsman newspaper