November 10, 2021 – Future of Work

In case you missed it: Ryan Stowers on building a postsecondary education system that empowers all learners


How can society prepare more people to find fulfilling work in a rapidly changing economy? That is the broad question Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) Executive Director Ryan Stowers tackled on two recent podcasts. 

The current system is not working for most people, Stowers said. With Ramona Schindelheim on Work in Progressa WorkingNation podcast, Stowers noted that, according to a CKF poll, 72 percent of people who want to learn new skills prefer to do so outside of a traditional four-year college or university. 

“None of us involved are paying enough attention to the learner voice,” said Stowers. A postsecondary education system that offered a “multiplicity of options” that help people discover their aptitudes, develop knowledge based on who they are, and connect people to employment opportunities would better empower learners.

On Illuminate Higher Education, a podcast with Kiran Kodithala, Stowers discussed how to create an individualized learning system that responds to the unique needs of every learner. 

“We think there is a big cultural shift that needs to occur,” said Stowers. “We need to move away from education as a function of seat time, as credit hours, or even degrees. We need to start thinking about it in terms of the individual learner, their aptitudes, their passions, and their interests. … There are too many learners that aren’t having an empowering experience.”

Stowers said postsecondary education leaders can establish this approach by visualizing education as Lego pieces that can be put together in multiple ways, and even changed, to create a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

The cost of not transforming our postsecondary education model is high, Stowers argued. He noted only one in three students at four-year institutions believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the workplace. 

The Charles Koch Foundation supports educational opportunities that respect the dignity of all learners, foster a diversity of approaches, and are open to the free flow of ideas and innovation. Learn more about how we help all learners unlock their potential.