The Future of Higher Learning?

By Jennifer Gervès-Keen

Jeffrey Simpson’s editorial in the Globe and Mail (October 21, 2011) highlights some of my recent thoughts around the current lack of focus in higher education, and the impact it has on young people looking to develop career-worthy knowledge and skills. We are currently experiencing a noticeable shift in attitudes towards learning in regards to career potential, as our very definition of a career is also changing. There have been incredible tools and delivery methods developed through new technologies, but we are simultaneously experiencing a lack of trust in our higher learning institutions. University degree programs are being questioned for their cost, their inaccessibility and, for some, their lack of relevance to future careers. Learning for learning’s sake is a truly wonderful thing, but can people still afford to continue investing in something which may give them little or no return?

Development within organizations, for maximum impact, should be employee initiated and driven, but how does an organization justify investing in an individual who may leave within a few months of completing his or her training? We have somehow moved to a business model where even entry-level positions now require a degree; where does that leave the other 75 per cent of our population?

One of the most effective ways to learn and be engaged as an adult learner is through work experience. Part of the solution to the higher-learning dilemma may be through developing more partnerships between the various community and professional organizations who are working to engage individuals in successful careers (usually working with potential employers) with post-secondary institutions that bring solid credentials and recognition to these largely community-based programs. These types of partnerships could also give individuals access to education and learning that might not be possible when presented in more traditional formats.

Accessible and effective learning and development is the cornerstone of civilization as we know it. In order to maintain a growth economy and a certain standard of living, we need to start paying attention to the future of learning…and the flexibility and openness that it needs to represent.

Jennifer Gervès-Keen, M.A. is a talented facilitation and training specialist and professional coach with over 15 years experience. Through a variety of delivery methods (meeting facilitation, workshops and coaching), Jennifer is highly successful in resolving workplace issues, and helping organizations, teams and individuals become more effective. She can be contacted at,, or 604-802-8268.


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