Previously, we examined the future trend of data and how it will continue to impact agriculture. Now, let’s take a look at another future trend: education. Over the next decade, the trend of continuing education will accelerate because of its necessity in achieving a competitive advantage. For those involved in agriculture and related agricultural businesses, education may be the one factor that differentiates profit from loss, or success from failure. Many are calling this a new term, “intellectual capital.” In actuality, educational trends for youth and adults will turn institutions, schools, colleges, and universities upside down within the next decade.
First, producers and others in the industry will continue to access more education online. Of course, this reflects the demand for ease and convenience, but also for a more efficient use of time as schedules grow more demanding. However, the most successful programs will be a blend of online and face-to-face sessions. This combination allows for engagement and sharing as well as valuable networking. While this blended approach is helpful for all ages, it is particularly needed for the Millennial and Gen Z Generations, or those born between 1995 and 2012. These young people are familiar with advancing technology and online resources, but need the benefit of education in the context of social interactions and human connection. As an aside, these two generations will account for over 150 Million people, which is nearly half of the U.S. population.
Because of the increased access to online education, another interesting trend is multiple generations taking part in the same course or educational session. Of course, this broadens the classroom perspective and creates a more valuable experience for each student. Further, this same technology is connecting the globe, bringing together students from across various cultures and backgrounds. Thus, one can access a rich and diverse learning environment without even getting in a car. For many of the Baby Boomer and Gen X Generations, a college degree was their entry way into the workforce. Today, more emphasis is being placed on vocational and technical skills as automation in technology becomes more prevalent.
Next, youth and adults will be able to customize their degrees, accessing leading educators and scholars from around the globe for a personalized and enriched experience. This access combined with internships and study experiences both domestically and globally, will give future agriculturalists a distinct advantage over others in their field.
In the next five years, colleges and universities will be driven toward efficiency not only in the classroom, but in research and educational outreach like extension programs. This is a function of cost, accessibility, and earning power after graduation. This is clearly evidenced by the drop in enrollment for masters programs as well as other graduate degrees like medicine and law. The question becomes not only will students be accepted into their program of choice, but rather, can they pay for it, how long will they pay for it, and will they earn enough with their degree to service their student debt.
Education has always been an important tool to advance one’s career and knowledge base. But in the near future, education will be the key to staying competitive. And today’s technology gives new meaning to the phrase “your education is what you make of it.” Just as one would incorporate a generational or management transition into strategic planning, a short and long-term educational plan is equally important to the overall success of the business. There is a wise saying, “If you’re not learning, your neighbor is.” And keep in mind that neighbor could be in India or anywhere else.