I wander lonely as a cloud security architect: Why Wordsworth might point towards the future of business education

06 May 2020

In the latest See the Future blogs, Ian Hawkings, Senior Consultant at CarringtonCrisp, reflects on what employers want from students.


“When you are unemployed, weekends are seven days long”, so says the social critic and philosopher Mokokoma Mokhonoana. And although seven-day weekends may seem appealing on some level, virtually every study CarringtonCrisp conducts points to the fact that business school students care about one thing above all else: employment.

Ergo, they care about what employers want. So, what do employers want?

In a previous blog we talked about how students now expect to learn throughout their careers, and to work longer before they retire. As a result, they want a wider range of short-courses that focus on topics such as decision making in uncertain times, data analytics, sustainability, and innovation.

In short – they don’t know what the future holds, but they want it to exist, they know technology will play a prodigious role, and they want to be ready for it.

Our latest See The Future study polled employers as well as students and the results show that their feelings are not light-years apart.

When asked what skills they want to see in potential hires in the next 3-5 years employers say creativity, leadership, communication, self-confidence, and adaptability. When asked what the most valuable topics for students to learn about are they say digital transformation, innovation, technology management and creativity.

84% of respondents said that they expect graduates to have to upskill and retrain throughout their lives and 59% said that they would expect new hires to still be working in their 70s.

So far, it seems as though employees and employers are nicely aligned. They all expect the same things. Excellent, we can all go home and rest easy.

Except....employers see something else as crucial. Perhaps something that is being overlooked by prospective students and maybe even by the business schools themselves. In order to grow a successful career, 71% (!) of employers said that future graduates should not only learn about business, but about the arts, the humanities, and the sciences. In other words, be more rounded. Take lessons that tell you about the world, about context, about what history has taught us.

88% of the employers we asked stated that these kinds of studies should be taught to give students better social, emotional, and cognitive abilities.

A Laker Airlines case study might tell a budding Freddie what he needs to know about price sensitivity and competition. But will it teach him anything about mindfulness, in the way a walk around the Lake District reciting Wordsworth verse might?

For business schools, finding the right balance between what students want and what employers expect will be critical to future success. Leo Tolstoy is perhaps an unusual source of clarity in this context, but he may have been talking about business schools when he said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”


Check our 'See The Future' free summary.


Read more of our 'See the Future' blogposts:

Time to think about business unusual

A new world of work means a new world for business schools

Students and employers want learning that heads in more than one direction

Are you dreaming of a liquid business school?

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