How do we prepare graduates for an unknown world? Ashorne Hill explores the role of graduate development programmes and whether they need to be reassessed.
Change is inevitable. Workplaces transform. We know there are jobs today that didn’t exist a decade ago, and many other jobs which have simply vanished. For example, who predicted the world would need blockchain engineers and AI technicians back in the noughties? And where did that local video shop go?
We should expect change. After all, we witnessed it, experienced it, and lived through it.
But what sets then apart from now is the pace of change. The world is spinning at an incredible rate, and what we know to be true today will not be true tomorrow. The future is unknown and far beyond the bounded rationality of us mere mortals.
So, what does that mean for our graduate population undertaking (for the most part) traditional education routes? Are we adequately preparing students for the working world they enter? And what role do employers play in preparing graduates for an unknown world?
The class of 2030 is a new ball game. According to a report published by Dell Technologies, 85 per cent of jobs in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.
If we accept that most modern graduate education routes are career-led rather than vocation-led (compounded by the commercialisation of higher education), perhaps now is the time to question the academic pursuits in which students engage.
Moreover, do employers recruiting truckloads of graduates hot off the university press need to re-evaluate the development opportunities they offer people at this critical stage of the talent pipeline?
The most valuable graduate skills
Graduate accountants, HR professionals, IT consultants, marketers, engineers, and logisticians may still inhabit our future workplaces. However, the most valuable graduates in 2030 and beyond will be the ones that are aware of their rapidly changing environments rather than exclusively relying on their preferred subject of study. Instead, they will hone skills that serve them well in an unknown world.
In their Future of Jobs report, the World Economic Forum identified the top 10 skills of 2025. The top 10 were categorised into problem solving, self-management, working with people, and technology use and development.
The study also showed that cognitive skills, including problem-solving and critical thinking, are growing in importance most quickly, with active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility emerging as top future skills.
Many of these skills require high levels of emotional intelligence – self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Others require the ability to think through and solve complex problems.
How graduates learn must keep pace with change
Interestingly, active learning and learning strategies appear near the top of the list because in the future organisation, how we learn will be as important as what we do.
Herein lies an exciting opportunity for graduate development teams to get ahead of the change curve. For graduates to be a success in 2030, their ability to generate experiences, experiment, observe, reflect, learn, and reapply themselves in new situations will be paramount.
If employers want to retain their current graduate population in the long term, they must act now and start helping them learn how to learn.
Helping graduates learn how to learn may seem counterintuitive to graduates and employers alike because graduates have already spent most of their lives in full-time education. But the way graduates learn is what we must focus on to help them keep pace with change, which starts with unlearning some old tricks and developing some new ones.
Experiential learning bridges academic and work life
Graduate development programme leaders have an opportunity to authentically bridge the space between academic and work life, discarding any remnants of traditional chalk-and-talk learning methods and replacing them with transformational learning experiences in formal and informal formats.
The workplace offers a plethora of learning experiences. People come up against complex problems every day and must resolve them with variable degrees of support. However, workplaces are not always the safest learning environments. The risks and consequences are greater, and often people are too busy to reflect on their experiences, losing the chance to learn from them.
Employers can support graduates by providing alternative learning experiences designed to introduce learners to new concepts, situations, and opportunities. Experiences where they can explore, practice and experiment in psychologically safe environments facilitated by experts who can observe, provide feedback, assist further learning, guide reflection, and support application.
Ashorne Hill delivers these highly experiential graduate learning solutions for graduate employers. Working closely with clients, Ashorne Hill design and develop programmes that closely meet organisational needs but always keeps the learner experience front and centre throughout.
Organisations choose from a comprehensive blend of digital, virtual, classroom-based, and work-based environments which encourage social learning, dialogue, problem-solving, decision-making, play, challenge, and application in the workplace, all of which have experiences weaved through them to help participants learn new skills and become effective learners ready to respond to challenges with confidence.
In early career stages, experiential learning in psychologically safe environments is a powerful tool to accelerate graduate career paths, filling the talent pipeline with graduates who easily contribute and add value faster and are more prepared for an unknown world.
Futureproofing will rely on organisations creating cultures where people seek learning moments in everything they do and feel encouraged to reflect, adapt, and grow, supported by flexible and inclusive experiential learning programmes.
Establishing a learning culture is a critical step-change for organisations looking forward to welcoming the class of 2030 into their workplaces, and we’re here for it.
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