Points of View

Freelancers model the future of education and work

Sam Stebbins

According to a recent article from CNBC written by Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel, the future of work may rely more on skills training than four-year degrees. This is based on the Upwork survey Freelancing in America 2018, in which 93% of freelancers said skills training was useful to their work compared to just 79% who cited their college education as useful to their current work.

 

Freelancers also participate in more upskilling or continued education than traditional full-time workers. According to the survey, 70% of full-time freelancers said they had participated in some kind of skills training within the past six months, while only 49% of non-freelancers did.

 

College degrees may not be keeping pace

Kasriel claims that these survey results point to two ways that college has not kept up with the future of work. First, four-year degrees may “tend to create a false sense of security, perpetuating the illusion that work—and the knowledge it requires—is static.” Rather, workers must continue to learn new skills as technology advances at an increasingly rapid rate.

 

In fact, many in-demand jobs and skills did not exist as recently as ten years ago. Upwork finds that 70% of the fastest-growing skills are new to its Quarterly Skills Index. What’s more, “the WEF cites one estimate finding that 65% of children entering primary school will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet.” To keep up with this growth, workers must continue their educations throughout their careers.

 

Second, Kasriel believes that the high cost of a college education is no longer consistently aligned with the benefits of holding a degree. He writes that the cost is “so high now that we have reached a tipping point at which the debt incurred often isn’t outweighed by future earnings potential.”

 

New education models for the future of work

Kasriel stresses that traditional college education will not become obsolete in the future. However, new education models should be utilized alongside four-year-degrees for a wide range of careers.

 

Many major companies that once required college degrees are beginning to consider and even hire candidates with nontraditional educations. These include programs for high school graduates to begin working in fields that once required post-secondary degrees as well as tech companies such as Apple and Google “offering well-paying jobs to those with nontraditional education or a high school diploma.”

 

Finally, Kasriel believes that new education models such as “campus-based, project-focused” programs or online learning will become increasingly valuable to the future workforce.