First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room, the first word of my title. What is a futurist? As much as I’d like to report that it’s a time traveler from the future here to prevent certain events that lead to disaster in their time, a futurist is really someone who thinks about the future and makes predictions. Thomas Frey is one such futurist. He is a published author and professional public speaker and works as the Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute in Westminster, Colorado. Back in December, Frey was interviewed by Anthony Sodd of Built-in Colorado. He made many insightful predictions and comments, but one that stuck out to me was that he expects what he calls “Micro Colleges” to expand and change the job market and education of the future.
Pickens Technical College isn’t a “Micro College” in the way that Frey characterizes full-immersion programs aimed at teaching students one or two specific skills, like coding or cybersecurity, but it does have many of the immersion programs in highly specialized skills that Frey is talking about. He’s alluding to the rise of specialized education—classes on how to do specific things designed to develop talent in a few specialized skills that a few select industries need workers for. Traditional colleges today are based on antiquated models. They’re great if you want to be a writer or learn to engineer so you can specialize your skills later in your career, but if you want to be an auto mechanic, for example, a four-year college will take too long, cost too much, and only give you a fraction of the skills you’ll need to run your own shop or work in a local shop. You’ll know how to write research papers for good grades but you’ll know almost nothing about how engines work.
Pickens Technical College is already working on teaching its students skills they can use in their specialized careers. Being a writer or an engineer is great, but if that’s not the career path you want (I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to be a writer), there are better options to get the specialized skills you need to jump into a career after only a year or two after high school. Thomas Frey, being a futurist, also predicted the rise of machines. Many jobs appear threatened by the rise of automation. For example, Frey predicted that house painters could be made obsolete with better house painting technology in the next few decades. But, he also said that there are many more jobs that can be created with new technology. Using the house painting example again, painters can become operators of house painting machines that paint houses in less than an hour. There will always be jobs for people who know how to use the latest technology to perform tasks that used to take much longer than they do now. PTC trains students to use technology better and get jobs at companies looking for qualified workers familiar with the tools they’ll be using.