The Rant logo

Education Innovation, AI, and Hiring Trends – Calbright’s President Talks to “The Rant”

If you want to make education work for diverse populations in a time of technological transformation and social change, “You have to create the space, with accountability and safeguards, for innovation to happen. To test what works.”

That’s the message Calbright College President Ajita Talwalker Menon brought to a new episode of “The Rant” podcast. The Rant is hosted by Eloy Oakley, president of the College Futures Foundation and former chancellor of the California Community Colleges system.

Together they went on a wide ranging discussion about the big picture of America’s changing education landscape – and how it must continue changing to better serve students and the economy. 

Calbright College was designed by the California state legislature to be on the leading edge of the learning curve for adult online education, exploring new ways to support working adults who need a college education to develop their careers. That means Menon oversees a lot of innovation for working adult learners.

Menon said there’s a lot that colleges can do to create systems that work for working adults, but also that those changes don’t just happen in the academy. They happen when educational institutions like community colleges partner with every aspect of government, business, and society.

When it comes to hiring, colleges can work with all sectors to make sure that they’re teaching the skills that employers want and workers need. 

“We’ve seen a number of governors, especially this governor, really lean into this idea that there are many places in state service, serving your community in the context of a good and secure job, that don’t really require a college degree,” she said. “That there’s skills that make somebody uniquely qualified to do that work. We are heavily engaged in working with the Burning Glass Institute, as well as Lightcast, to really analyze within state, local, and county-level opportunities, the good jobs that are available in every community.  How do we think about what the right job roles are? How do we think of the tasks involved in those jobs, and how do we work with those public entities that are in great need of talent to bridge the talent gap that they have with a workforce that doesn’t necessarily have two or four or eight years to get a degree.”

Colleges similarly have to keep on top of technology. Artificial Intelligence “is being thought of as another new technology,” Menon said, “when this particular technology is becoming much more ubiquitous than that. It’s actually transforming the relational way that we move through. It’s a societal transformation as much as it is a transformation in technology.”

That has big implications for career education. 

“For the communities that we serve, what are the skills that they need to have in order to navigate an AI world and an AI future?” she asked.

“And that is not a narrow set of skills. That is uniquely human skills that they need to be able to flex in order to really be successful in the world that we’re increasingly finding ourselves driven into. We need to offer those broader set of skills, these pieces of what has been talked about as the outcome of a four year liberal arts education sometimes. At its most basic level, it is not something that necessarily requires an educational institution, but it is something that requires intentional skills building and an access point. So what I’m most excited about are engagements that we have with our learners that enable them to develop the career skills to navigate that. And it’s not as mechanical as it might have been previously. It is more in depth than that and covers a wider range of skills.”

You can listen to the full podcast to hear Menon and Oakley review the new frontier of higher education for working adults.

Related Blogs

Maurice, of Fremont, always wanted a career in tech, but was getting by working in...

In last week’s New York Times, writer Rachel Louise Snyder wrote a moving and heartfelt...

We know that college has become increasingly expensive, putting it out of reach for many...

Ready to get rolling?