A Future Forward College: Wake Tech, Raleigh, North Carolina
By Steve Scott, Carol Cutler-White, and Benita Budd
Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, has collaborated with the Center for Communities of the Future (COTF) to explore the emerging concept of a Future Forward College. Working together for more than six months, the team of deans and department heads identified these key ideas as the basis for a Future Forward College:
- Self-directed learning and personalized curricula.
- Identifying weak signals.
- Science of networks.
- New concept of literacy for the twenty-first-century.
- Unlearning and uplearning (the capacity to think at a higher level of complexity).
- Transformational coaching.
- Future Forward Workforce.
The final concept — Future Forward Workforce — will be the key to the future economic sustainability and vitality of any community. It emphasizes the need to prepare students to adapt to the varied requirements of the Industrial Economy, the Knowledge Economy, and an emerging Creative Molecular Economy.
The Future Forward Workforce will require these skills:
- Connective thinking and value-added listening: learning to see connections among totally disparate ideas and factors; listening to what is said to be able to connect other ideas and factors as a method of innovation.
- Appreciative resourcing using interlocking networks: building connections among people and organizations in different networks at the local, national, and international levels to develop access to knowledge by asking appropriate questions. This is a form of crowd-sourcing emerging knowledge and continuous innovation that participants in a twenty-first-century workforce will need to know.
- Foresight integration: utilizing trends and weak signals to create a context of futures thinking so that issues are considered and actions taken that are aligned with emerging knowledge and not based on traditional ideas and methods.
- Advanced computer simulation for imagination: the use of virtual reality platforms such as Second Life to visualize emerging ideas and innovations that are not in current reality.
The development, expansion, and success of a Future Forward Workforce depends on transformative changes in education at all levels. Wake Tech and other visionary community colleges are creating the flexibility and adaptability necessary for newly emerging economic demands and a transition in workforce needs. This effort could make such colleges strong models for transformational education in this era of constant change.
With a 50-year history of business–education partnerships, Wake Tech is moving such partnerships into a “futures context,” launching a Center for Strategic Futures with support from SunTrust Bank. A speakers forum hosts thought leaders who engage in lively dialogue with students and faculty on ideas relating to the future of education, workforce, and economic development. The Center’s goal is to create a culture of future-thinking students, staff, and faculty.
These conversations have encouraged instructors to develop futures-directed assignments and projects. The informally organized Futures Forward Faculty group is developing new approaches to teaching and learning that will encourage students to prepare for careers that require adaptive, creative workers. The interdisciplinary group itself is dynamic in number and makeup, and students are engaged as frequently as possible as partners in project development.
One course in development is a futures course, where students would learn techniques of adaptive planning and trend identification. After hearing from experts (faculty and professional) on issues ranging from natural resources to microeconomics and green technologies, small groups would focus on specific challenges like transportation or housing, then develop plans for addressing issues that might arise in the next 20 years within a “futures interdisciplinary framework.”
As a national leader in the Future Forward College idea, Wake Tech will play a key role in a national network with other community colleges, including Henderson CC in Henderson, Kentucky; Muskegon CC in Muskegon, Michigan; Tarrant County College in Dallas, Texas; and UDC–CC in Washington, D.C.
Steve Scott, credited with coining the term Future Forward College, is president of Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, www.waketech.edu.
Carol Cutler-White is vice president for Federal Funds at Wake Technical Community College.
Benita Budd is an English instructor at Wake Technical Community College.
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