In a decade’s time, the students entering college in Ireland this year will only have qualified five or six years earlier. If they think they are settling comfortably into a job, they may have cause to think again. Young people graduating today can expect to work until 2060 and beyond.
Such is the rapid pace of transformation in jobs markets worldwide that graduates need to develop broad skills to allow them to adapt, and to transfer their knowledge and attributes to the new imperative.
As well as a grounding in their academic discipline, they need good communication skills, an ability to work in teams and a creativity and flexibility that will allow them to respond to the inevitable changes that will happen in the workplace.
Third-level colleges have to prepare students and equip them with what they will need to embrace new and undreamt of challenges.
Irish universities and institutes of technology are rising to the task and Maynooth University has come up with its own take on what needs to be done.
Like other colleges, it is putting more focus on helping students develop core skills such as communication, on encouraging students to engage with languages and on broadening their horizons by taking modules outside their own core subjects.
But Maynooth is also doing something quite different in an Irish context by offering students flexibility to mix and match subjects across the spectrum of arts and science.
That will be welcomed by students who have studied perhaps eight or nine subjects in the Leaving Certificate and cannot decide what route to take in college – initially at least.
More than that, it will produce graduates with broad perspectives, with the ability to see an issue from more than one angle, the very skill required to solve the complex problems they will confront. Think of what the economist-cum-scientist could bring to a table discussing the global environmental challenge.