In the latest Herald webinar, professionals from Accenture discussed why the future of education is crucial to Scotland’s sustainability agenda, especially in light of COP26 and the theme of a just transition.

James Surgeon, Higher Education Industry Lead, Charlotte Aspinall, Digital Transformation and Simon Woods, Business Design Director at Fjord, joined Kim McAllister to discuss both the role of tertiary education and how it should respond.

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“The emerging role of education in this debate is really about ensuring that true sustainability – manufactured capital; natural capital; human capital and social capital are at the forefront of a just transition and the shaping of an economy that’s growing quickly but has fairness at its core,” James said.

He outlined that the role for Scotland’s universities and colleges centres around giving people new skills and new ways of learning, supporting Scotland’s key industries and building social awareness, research excellence and access to funding streams.

Many reports have been commissioned in this sector in order to create a joined up policy, for example the Cumberford Little report on further education skills for the future; the Muscatelli Report on research excellence, the Logan Report on system outcomes in the tech sector and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry Report on rural cohesion for sustaining rural communities.

The evolving world of work has to be reflected in the learners’ experiences, so there is a move away from the traditional lecture hall and into more real-life settings.

James gave the example of Accenture benefitting enormously from shifts in working patterns that better enable people located in Scotland to live and work here without any perceived disadvantage of having to be located elsewhere, like London.

Simon Woods pointed out that an inclusive workplace drives innovation and the same is true in education settings.

“We have to think in similar terms about how digital can enable learners, wherever they are in Scotland, to experience that flexibility and then harness it further by creating new economic opportunities for their communities,” he said.

Charlotte Aspinall  agreed that technology is a hugely powerful force and can transform access for remote communities.

“Technology like AI is triggering an urgent call to reskill workers,” she said. “Many emerging roles in the future economy will be fulfilled by people and machines working together in ways that are complementary.”

The panel agreed that, broadly speaking, the future is bright, although some difficulties remain.

“There are challenges of course and lots to do, but we’re seeing broad acceptance of what we need to do and how we need to get there,” James said.

“One of the main challenges will be doing this at pace and also to keep listening – not just to the needs of businesses and key sectors in the economy, but to students and researchers about what they need to experience.”

To watch this webinar click HERE