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Walden Magazine // Jul 20, 2020

The Skills Workers Need Next

What it will take to succeed in the workplaces of tomorrow.

“In the future, employers will be looking for people who are able to creatively problem-solve. They’ll be looking for people who are innovators,” says Dr. Savitri Dixon-Saxon, vice provost of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Walden University. “An employee who’s able to make decisions using data knows how to access information to grow with the organization’s goals. Those are the people who are going to be able to take advantage of the workplace of the future.”

As digitized workplaces become the norm, simply understanding technology is no longer enough. The most desirable employees will be skilled in strategically employing the newest applications and systems to achieve the organization’s goals. These employees will continually improve their skills and knowledge, keeping pace with the rate of technology growth.

“In the 21st century, it takes one year to make the technological advances that it took 10 years to make in the 20th century,” says Dixon-Saxon, describing technology’s exponential rate of change. “The job market changes at the same pace.”

For today’s workforce, that makes continuing education more important than ever. And it’s something Dixon-Saxon prioritizes in her own professional life. “Every three to five years, I need to be thinking about acquiring some significant new skill that allows me to remain relevant,” she says. “But it could be even more frequently than that for the next generation.”

What are some of the most in-demand skills? We look to some of the world’s fastest-growing industries to find out.

STEM

It’s no surprise that the fastest-growing industries are in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In fact, STEM-related jobs are growing at a rate more than double that of other fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and those who hold STEM-related jobs bring home above-average salaries. The biggest need for new workers will be in computer-related and engineering occupations.

“They’re producing jobs faster than graduates can be produced to fill their jobs,” Dixon-Saxon says. “So graduates are able to be more selective about where they want to go.”

She points to several programs within Walden’s College of Management and Technology that are designed to give graduates the skills they need to succeed right away—and in the globalized workplace of the future.

The Master of Information Systems Management program, created with input from IT industry leaders and employers, prepares students for the most in-demand careers in this field. The degree helps meet the need for skilled IT workers with management expertise. Additional master’s programs in software engineering, data science, and information technology offer graduates valuable future-ready skills.

Education

As part of the demand in STEM fields, there’s a growing need for STEM educators. There’s also a growing need for leaders with the skills to implement the latest technologies in education, from K–12 to professional development programs. “Walden has always had really strong education programs, so we are prepared to meet the needs of our society in those areas as well,” Dixon-Saxon says.

Within The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, programs at a variety of levels prepare educators in these critical areas. They include post-baccalaureate certificate and master’s degree programs in instructional design and technology, EdS and post-master’s certificate programs in educational technology, and a graduate certificate in integrating technology in the classroom.

Healthcare

The College of Nursing offers programs to prepare graduates to integrate technology into healthcare delivery as well as improve health outcomes for communities—both essential to the future of healthcare. This approach will be especially critical in managing the impact of pandemics, such as the one that’s been caused by COVID-19. “In our programs, we’re responding to what’s needed in our society,” Dixon-Saxon says. “I think that within our health sciences programs, we have a lot of programs that address the needs of today’s society.” She points to the MSN specializations in Public Health Nursing and Nursing Informatics as being ideal for graduates looking for an edge in the healthcare industry of the future.

“The future of work is interdisciplinary, and academically prepared individuals who are adept at interprofessional communication and embrace change will thrive,” adds Dr. Laurel Walsh, core faculty at Walden University. “It will no longer be sufficient to thrive in your narrow discipline. Employees who show up ready to learn, happy to participate in creative problem solving, and comfortable with ambiguity will be sought after in the workplace of tomorrow.”

As scholar-practitioners driving social change, Walden graduates have employed these skills in their pursuit of education in programs across the university. It’s what makes alumni prepared for whatever the future may hold, and eager to keep learning.

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