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The Future of Executive Education: The Lifelong Learner

By Jon Lehman

As I reminisced about attending a recent 35th reunion of my MBA program, I was struck by how much the world has changed. The well-worn path of finishing college, finding that first plum job, attending graduate school, and then embarking on a progressive career path is now rare. This old paradigm, in which the vast majority of your business education was front-loaded and absorbed early in your career, is no longer the norm. In a recent study, commissioned by the AACSB, the accrediting body for major business schools, and UNICON, a consortium of executive education programs of similar schools, they found that “Lifelong learning is the driver and shaper of future business strategy” for executive education.

What is driving this change? There are several factors.

  • The nature of work is changing, and the skills required are evolving.
  • People are changing jobs, industries, and careers more frequently.
  • Executive education is being delivered and consumed in different ways with a significant shift to online.
  • Education content needs to be more current, relevant, and immediately applicable.
  • Individual and corporate learning objectives have their own priorities, which may no longer align.

The bottom line is that individuals need to be prepared to “retool” themselves frequently and make sure that they remain competitive in the workforce and have the skills needed at various stages in their career journeys.

How should business schools like Vanderbilt respond? According to same AACSB study, the shift “will require new products, new services, new business models, and new technologies, which in turn require time, effort, and financial investment to get right.” McKinsey, in their own recent education study, noted that the dramatic shift to online learning and the corresponding increase in competition encourages education providers to “bold action” to “compete and grow while meeting the needs of learners.”

In response, the Vanderbilt Executive Education team has undertaken several initiatives.

  • We recently created Alumni Reboot 1.0, an alumni-focused event that brought learners back into the classroom with content relevant to their own life journeys.
  • We continue to develop our on-line delivery expertise with the creation of two new online programs in Healthcare and Sustainability.
  • We are building deeper relationships with education partners that bring complementary expertise to our traditional model.
  • We are experimenting with new, creative delivery models with our corporate clients and individual learners.

We look to both our primary customers, individual learners, and corporate learning teams for insights. Let us know what you need. We are constantly learning too.

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