More programmes are needed for mid-level professionals

Managing radical change is increasingly becoming challenging in the constantly changing digital world. Middle-aged individuals, especially, must unlearn and relearn to survive in the current dynamic business environment. However, it is not easy to update their knowledge and skill-sets as they work five or six days a week. Moreover, personal and financial commitments are major barriers to acquiring new skillsets that are required for career progression.

The IITs, IIMs, reputed B-schools, and a few Edu-tech companies offer executive education, management development and certificate programmes for middle-aged employees. But these come with a huge price tag, with fees often running to not less than six digits. Most middle-aged working professionals cannot afford it.

Further, except for a few, most companies do not provide training for middle-aged professionals due to the high costs and time involved. So, raising the efficiencies of this section of the workforce, which will be working for the next two decades, needs to be addressed.

The solution lies with public universities as they have the physical infrastructure, knowledge resources, and multidisciplinary human capital to support and provide continuing education for such middle-aged workforce.

Public universities

Many public-funded universities offer regular, open, correspondence and distance-based educational programmes. IGNOU is one such university that offers diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in various disciplines at affordable rates. Moreover, public universities offer full-time and part-time doctoral programmes for people interested in pursuing research.

For decades, public universities’ programmes have attracted learners as their certificates are valid, recognised and approved by public recruitment agencies. However, that alone will not be enough. Upskilling and gaining new knowledge are vital to stay competitive as business dynamics has shifted to the knowledge era and is now moving into the digital information age. It’s highly challenging to deliver the outcomes without continuing education, training and acquiring new skill-sets.

Public universities must think of launching rigorous weekend, full-time postgraduate and other certificate programmes exclusively for middle-aged working professionals. Such programmes are needed, especially in the emerging areas of data science and analytics, fintech and blockchain, artificial intelligence, ESG and sustainability, at an affordable price.

Universities generally have several departments, covering physical sciences, social sciences, technology, engineering, etc. So, universities can easily float multidisciplinary industry-relevant educational programmes. Offering such unique industry-relevant programmes make universities the ideal platform for attracting middle-aged working professionals to their classrooms as part of continuing education. Also, this will help universities build a network with industry leaders.

Such industry interactions result in summer internship and placement opportunities for youngsters who pursue regular programmes at their campuses. Industry-university collaboration can result in sponsored industry research projects, and training opportunities. Also, universities can get industry experts as guest speakers at various seminars/conferences. In addition, industry can be part of the board of studies in revising and updating the curriculum with emerging topics. All such activities lead to getting accreditations and improving the rankings of universities.

Top-ranked universities from the US, Europe and Singapore offer PG diploma and certification programmes for middle-aged professionals across the globe for not less than $3,000. Similarly, the IIMs, IITs and private universities, in collaboration with Edu-tech firms, offer exclusive six-month certification programmes on project/ strategic management and leadership. But these are not affordable for everyone.

Hence, it is time for public universities to consider offering weekend postgraduate programmes in emerging areas.

The writer is Assistant Professor, Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad

Published on June 07, 2022