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Life Skills – A Requirement For Today’s Higher Education Landscape

It’s clear we live in a world that is more fluid and rapidly changing than ever – and slowly but surely, fixed skill sets are being pushed out in favour of flexible ones. To produce better talent, it’s time for higher education institutes to focus more on soft and interpersonal skills just as much as traditional ones if we’re to see our future generations of graduates to their full potential.

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With the expansion and increased competitiveness of the global employment industry, lifelong learning is a prerequisite that is becoming more important than ever before.

What can be done to improve the quality of education being delivered to students, and help better prepare them for their careers? Furthermore, with so many rapid changes happening to the industry, it is crucial to design a curriculum that provides students with the skillset to problem solve and adapt to change rather than have the knowledge on how to carry out specific tasks.

Both tourism and hospitality education has always traditionally focused on delivering training to students that is focused on a specific skillset necessary to the industry. While a vocational style of education might help prepare its students for a specific occupation, scholars argue that it results in only short-term employment, without giving students the tools for sustainable employability or influence over their own industry.

With increasing change in both the domestic as well as global market, technology, and customer expectations of the industry itself, the requirements of tourism and hospitality graduates have also undergone significant transformation. Graduates are expected to possess more than just specialised knowledge and skills, but also the capacity ‘to be proactive and to see and respond to problems creatively and autonomously’.

Both higher education institutes as well as hospitality companies need to acknowledge the changes and nuances of postmodern tourism in order to produce graduates that are future ready and have the skills, knowledge and capacity to adapt to future changes and challenges within the industry. Scholars stress the importance of placing focus on not just specific, standardized knowledge and skills, but on developing graduates’ abilities to confront tourism’s postmodern changes through an understanding of lifelong learning within a framework that is focused on student affect, thought and action, which takes into account and makes possible the significance of a student’s ability to connect with the dynamic tourism world as a whole.

While there is no single definition for lifelong learning, the fundamental purpose of it is to ensure a sustainable and long term career path for graduates. When placing long term focus on the tourism industry and employment within it, it is crucial to give utmost attention to the ‘liquidity’ of the corporate environment when thinking of the change and reflexivity within it. These changes are built on the assumption that the tourism industry is not an isolated, closed off system- in fact, it is a system that is related to the broader human environment in general, in which change is inevitable. With the sustainability of the industry in mind, scholars have emphasised the importance of training graduates in openness towards movement and change in tourism alongside traditional knowledge and skills 

It is no longer the norm for graduates to stay within one company for the duration of their careers and possessing a single set of skills and knowledge of routine tasks is no longer enough to succeed in the present day climate. A sustainable, future-proof education should then focus on providing students with the ability to change, develop, and renew their knowledge and skills throughout their lives and careers, enabling them to think and act as contributors to both the tourism industry as well as broader society; this approach teaches students to regard their skills not as final goals, but as gateways to change on a lifelong, sustained basis.

With the expansion and increased competitiveness of the global employment industry, lifelong learning is a prerequisite that is becoming more important than ever before. Tang (1999:59, cited in Su, 2015), states that ‘the workplace is now entering global competition, facing cultural diversity, challenged by technology invention and application, and using new management processes. These factors require workers not only with higher levels of professional competence but also the ability to think critically, solve problems, and skillfully communicate’. All in all, it’s clear we live in a world that is more fluid and rapidly changing than ever – and slowly but surely, fixed skill sets are being pushed out in favour of flexible ones. To produce better talent, it’s time for higher education institutes to focus more on soft and interpersonal skills just as much as traditional ones if we’re to see our future generations of graduates to their full potential. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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