The future of topping up skills

The engineers of the future – who are they? This is hard to predict, but one thing is becoming increasingly clear: some form of continuing professional development during their careers will not only be necessary but also self-evident.

The Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers’ survey on the extent to which employers focus on this development, published last autumn, makes for depressing reading; for example, around 30 percent of companies have neither long-term plans nor have set aside funds for future continuing professional development for their employees. There is great potential for improvement in this area, to put it mildly. And as I previously pointed out, it’s incredibly important to have a good dialogue between universities and the companies or public sector institutions where today’s 185,000 university-educated engineers spend their days.

But even among the companies that have invested in their employees’ opportunities to continuously acquire new and updated knowledge, there is a risk that there won’t be enough time or that existing tasks will present an obstacle when it’s time to do the development work.

Maybe future engineers will do a short course, start work, come back and top up their skills with an online course and then return to working life? If KTH Royal Institute of Technology is to continue to be relevant as a university for new students admitted each year, it is important to have the courage to think in new ways. Those entering the job market in, say, 2025 need to have the chance to adapt their knowledge to a world and job market that are moving increasingly quickly and becoming increasingly digitised and globalised.

KTH is continually updating its engineering programmes based on new research findings and any new needs that arise in the surrounding world. There needs to be a constant dialogue on requirements for new knowledge, however, in order to identify rapid changes that can be tackled by changing the content of courses and study programmes. It’s important that KTH lays a foundation in terms of engineering knowledge that lasts for many years and that can be used as a basis for continuing professional development or skills exchange.

In another report from the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers they also approach dialogue as a pathway towards greater in-service training and development. But the report states that the dialogue should be taken a step further and be incorporated in the concept of collaboration in order to further benefit the interplay between universities and working life.

Hopefully, a student completing their degree at KTH in 2025 will see upgrading their skills when necessary as a fairly obvious component of their professional life. Short, flexible courses or in some other form is not the most important. Rather that the lifelong learning really takes place