by MICHAEL BARON
Right now, I must admit I am feeling rather ‘’privileged’’. I still have some teaching work available for me for the next semester.
As someone who has been working at universities for almost 20 years – I know, I can count myself lucky. COVID-19 has been going through the Australian Higher Ed & TAFE sectors like a cyclone.
Every single educational provider appears to be hit hard and experiencing significantly lower enrolments and therefore lesser demand for the teaching services.
There is no question, that each and every worker is affected. Student services, full-time academics and teachers, contract workers like me – we are all in the same boat. Even for a minority of the education workers who still appear to be in ‘’secure employment’’ (yes, apparently educators who are feeling secure about their jobs right now do exist…not that I’ve met any of them recently), there are obvious concerns about the future of higher and post-secondary education in Australia. The combination of existing jobs disappearing and new jobs not-emerging gives little reason for optimism.
Despite the Pandemic-inflicted challenges, many of the ‘’career educators’’ have already grown into their teaching jobs and are going to accept the reality of cut-throat competition for whatever jobs are still left for them to occupy.
But what about sessional academics and teachers who have been combining teaching with industry work, like me?
In recent years, training providers have been aiming to bring more industry practitioners on board for delivering their educational programmes. It appeared to be the perfect recipe for blending academic expertise with hands-on industry experience and skills.
I can not speak for the teaching teams in fields other than business & IT but I could (and still can) see clear benefits of the courses in my field of expertise being delivered by practicing accountants, lawyers, IT and management consultants. From the students’ points of view – this has been a great opportunity to meet those that they have been hoping to work with in the not-so -distant future.
At the same time, the industry practitioners have been able to earn handsome supplements to their main sources of income as well as to diversify their daily routines. In some cases, they would eventually switch to academia altogether but in just some cases. For many (and I can most certainly attest to this – it is what I have been doing since the turn of the century) while non-academic careers continued teaching became an integral part of life.
We have reached a point where the entire economy is bleeding but majority of the industries that delegate loyal servants to the education providers are under no threat of extinction.
The demand for lawyers, accountants and IT specialists is on-going and is likely to remain so. Therefore, the big question that many of us are facing is ‘’does the education industry hold any future for us or not?’’.
It also leads to the consequent question ‘’Shall we struggle so hard for the teaching jobs when there are other lucrative opportunities coming up?’’
In my case, I probably will – and will do my level best to remain part of the education industry even if it is not going to be the most cost-effective deployment of my time. But again – only time can tell.
So in a nutshell, this is yet another challenge for the very senior educators who are running universities and colleges to consider: how to sustain its strong links to the respective industries through remaining closely connected with the industry practitioners who have been diligently contributing to the educational programs for years.
Do not let industry professionals buy one-way tickets out of education.
Dr Michael Baron is the Founder and CEO of Baron Consulting. He has also been teaching MBA and MIS courses and hopes to continue to do so.