The idea of a remote workforce has been floating around since the dawn of the internet. Being location-independent affords organizations many benefits aside from cutting costs and increasing productivity. This setup can even solve talent shortage problems in tech and beyond. For example, software engineers don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to gain an opportunity to work for the world’s most influential companies. And this goes for talented individuals in other professions and industries too. Through easily accessible remote job platforms, skilled workers can seamlessly find job opportunities on par with their talent.
While the transition to remote work over the last few years has been gradual at best, the pandemic has swiftly turned it into our reality. Or, as many people like to call it, the new normal. According to a recent survey, 69% of US financial service companies expect to have more than half of their workforce in a telecommuting setup moving forward. Before the pandemic, only 29% of these businesses said they would be willing to adopt flexible working arrangements. Google, Salesforce, Facebook, and PayPal are a few of the leading companies to adopt remote work in light of the pandemic and extend it until the near future. Meanwhile, Japan’s Fujitsu took an even bigger step by cutting down its office space by half, which goes to show that remote work is here to stay.
Readying future labor forces for remote work
With many of the world’s most recognized brands embracing this new normal, it begs the question: are today’s students, who will soon make up the labor force, prepared to work in a remote setup? Are their skills being developed at the academic level to handle and thrive in this rapidly changing working environment?
At this point, it’s still too early to tell but, like companies, schools and universities have had to quickly transition their students to online learning. After some back and forth, Northwestern University decided to officially shift to online instruction. It’s among a growing list of academic institutions in the country that have decided to open the academic year on a remote basis. Others, like Williams College, are pursuing a hybrid model of remote and in-person classes. This shift has definitely challenged schools to improve their distance learning platforms. It also puts more value on online courses as the primary means to complete a degree and develop the necessary skills to enter an evolving workforce.
Remote learning in practice
Case in point: cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing professions, with nearly three million positions left unfulfilled up until last year. To build skills that are in high demand across almost all industries, some universities are designing comprehensive cybersecurity programs that can be accessed completely remotely. These are built to train students in the offensive and defensive approaches to cybersecurity more effectively.
What’s more, remote students have the benefit of learning in a virtual training ground that can be accessed anywhere and on any device. An example of this in practice is Maryville University’s online cybersecurity degree program which has been developed through their Virtual Lab – an innovative security operations center that provides cost-free services to different organizations. This lab, which was recognized by Apple for mobile innovation, lets students develop technical, hacking, and analytical cybersecurity skills. Testing one’s problem-solving skills remotely in an academic setting, where the conditions are safe and protected, is an effective way of developing necessary technical skills before students enter the workforce. Furthermore, the mobile nature of the coursework readies these future cybersecurity experts to better adapt to prevailing remote working conditions.
The critical importance of remote learning
The unique features of online learning can also prepare students for the new nature of the workforce itself. By obtaining their education online, future professionals can develop critical communication and collaboration skills that fuel remote work. More importantly, they can learn to be more adaptable — a quality that’s crucial in the 21st century and beyond. Adaptability at work means learning and applying new skills and responding quickly to changing work environments such as the one we are facing now.
As disruptive as the pandemic has been for the academic setting, it’s given students an opportunity to hone critical technical and soft skills necessary to succeed in a rapidly evolving professional environment. Writer Goldie Blumenstyk described the times as a black swan moment, saying that the pandemic will put online education and the development of education technology tools at the forefront. It’s up to these academic institutions to train educators and develop tools and systems that will support this inevitable shift. As companies like Turing.com — which connects remote software engineers to top US firms — help accelerate the shift to remote, it becomes all the more integral that academic institutions follow suit.
Turing is leading the charge in building top-of-the-line remote workforces. If you’re a software developer who wants to take your career to the next level, you can apply to top Turing remote jobs. If you’re a company that needs to scale your engineering capacity quickly, you can, with Turing, hire best-in-class software developers who have exceptional technical and communication skills, and work in your timezone.
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