Rise of the gig economy: What about our higher education dynamics?



27 Feb 2023 07:11pm
Photo for illustration purpose only - Source: 123RF
Photo for illustration purpose only - Source: 123RF

There is a growing number of youngsters who opt to stray from the university path and immediately join the gig economy to earn a living (permanently; and not just for the experience) from the get go - right after high school.

This somehow leads to some youngsters being less motivated to further their studies. Most believe that “We no longer need higher education credentials to make a living.”

Rather than heading off for four years of classes with no definitive security to build a satisfying high-flying career, more are opting for the gig economy from as young as sixteen.

What is so attractive about gig economy? Known for one’s flexibility to choose jobs or projects and exposure to a more diverse work experience while controlling their own working hours, gig economy covers a broad area and a big group of people.

Among them are given short- or long-term engagement, as a part time or a full time and they are free agent employment. In short, they are supposedly given the freedom of flexibility.

Flexible jobs mean different things to different people, but can include working from home, working part-time, job sharing, contract and freelance employment, part-time and temporary jobs, self-employment, and new jobs.

Overall, most should be able to make a decent living without being tied down to one company with gig economy.

However, what many tend to miss is that while the gig-based economy is often equated with low-skilled work, like cleaning homes, driving others, delivering food or parcels, carrying out tasks and projects, highly skilled and specialised jobs are also increasingly being offered on a contract or consulting basis; thus, the importance of still having those tertiary credentials.

You may also like:

Ask those who are working in the healthcare and education industry. How ironic can life be? The basic necessity roles are the ones known with the least wage.

So, how can educators play an effective role to prepare future generation for such working dynamic? Preparing students for the gig economy once they graduate is a big challenge.

On the one hand, jobs will become much more focused and specialised in the future, but on the other hand, the shift towards contract or gig-based jobs requires employees to be very flexible.

Millennials are known to switch jobs at an average of four times in their first decade out of university — double the rate of the prior generation. Guilty as charged.

Thus, in addition to teaching crucial skills like self-directed learning, effective communication, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and project management, the use of technology across all these aspects must be encouraged by educators.

Learners must also be prepared for project-based work after they graduate. Therefore, by incorporating project-based learning into their curriculum, the gap of acquiring and application can be minimised.

Educators should get used to giving students feedback at different stages of their projects, instead of just one final graded deliverable. This way students will understand what it is like to be held accountable for their work, making them better prepared to handle feedback in their careers.

Emphasis should also be placed on how the project is reported. Learners should be encouraged and prepared to deliver their results in a public setting as a talk or presentation, just as they will have to in real life.

By doing so, this helps learners to steer clear from becoming free-riders while working in groups; thus, enhancing their collaborative skills.

Participation in the gig economy is a logical path for young people who are first unemployed or whose income in traditional jobs is insufficient. This could also be the definite pathway for those who successfully nail their gigs to get that job satisfaction one desires on top of their daily work routine.

Emphasising competency in specific skill sets rather than general education requirements is crucial.

To sum up, gig work can be a revelation in which society should intend to embrace although some seem to view gig work as a “back-up plan” if they cannot get their preferred traditional job.

Whatever it is you do, you are the one that matters. Make sure to do something purposeful that makes you exponentially-driven.

These days, trends come and go in the blink of an eye. There is no way a curriculum and textbook can keep in touch with all that. To combat this, it is essential to be learning all the time.

SYAZUIN SAZALI is a Subject Matter Expert in soft skills. She aims to continuously advocate for progressive growth in education.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.