Late, great fu­tur­ist Alvin Tof­fler called it some time ago: The pace at which tech­nol­ogy evolves will one day make it very dif­fi­cult for work­ers to stay skilled and rel­e­vant in the work­place.

That day has surely ar­rived. There­fore, one can imag­ine that he would have ap­proved of the Tech Fu­tures Lab, Frances Val­in­tine’s fu­ture-fo­cused or­gan­i­sa­tion that hosts train­ing, busi­ness coach­ing and mas­ter­classes, de­signed to help pro­fes­sion­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions to adapt, learn, lead and suc­ceed in this fastchang­ing world.

In­spired by pro­grammes such as Sin­gu­lar­ity Uni­ver­sity and the Har­vard Busi­ness School, Tech Fu­tures Lab of­fers train­ing pro­grammes that teach busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als how to in­no­vate and fu­ture­proof them­selves to max­imise op­por­tu­ni­ties in to­day’s hy­per-dig­i­tally-en­abled world.

“We are liv­ing in an en­vi­ron­ment where busi­ness dis­rup­tion is trans­form­ing the world around us at an in­cred­i­ble rate, and en­tire in­dus­tries are be­ing forced to over­haul their busi­ness mod­els in or­der to sur­vive,” Val­in­tine says.

“We are stand­ing on the beach and the tidal wave is about to hit. No job, sec­tor or in­dus­try is im­mune.”

Es­tab­lished in July 2016, the group's flag­ship pro­gramme is the Mas­ter of Tech­no­log­i­cal Fu­tures, de­signed for busy pro­fes­sion­als ne­go­ti­at­ing dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies and new busi­ness mod­els. The one year, ac­cel­er­ated, in­dus­try-led de­gree pro­gramme con­sists of a 12-week in­no­va­tion boot camp, with the re­main­ing time ded­i­cated to a prac­ti­cal project of­fer­ing im­me­di­ate busi­ness ben­e­fits.

This year, Tech Fu­tures Lab has had three co­horts of stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in the Mas­ter of Tech­no­log­i­cal Fu­tures, with a fourth start­ing this month.

The group also runs in­ten­sive mas­ter­classes, work­shops and cus­tomised train­ing pro­grammes to pro­vide boards, ex­ec­u­tive teams and busi­nesses with tools to un­der­stand im­pacts and op­por­tu­ni­ties for their busi­nesses.

And so far, the group has an out­stand­ing feed­back and an ex­cel­lent course com­ple­tion rate – of­ten hard to achieve at post­grad­u­ate level – of 93 per­cent, with strong par­tic­i­pa­tion and re­sults for women and Māori. (The course com­ple­tion rate for Māori can­di­dates cur­rently sits at 100 per­cent).

“If we're mov­ing ahead as a na­tion, we need a whole lot of dig­i­tal com­pa­nies with high-end dig­i­tal skills,” Val­in­tine says. “There's a lot of de­mand glob­ally in some of these emerg­ing fields in the tech­ni­cal space, but no one here is pro­vid­ing an education for it. Un­less you want to go and do a PhD or go start from the be­gin­ning, then there isn't an op­tion.”

Each course is full-time, 40 hours a week for ten weeks, so yes, it's full on.

“We recog­nise that for most busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als and their em­ploy­ers, tak­ing two to three years out for fur­ther education is sim­ply not an op­tion. Our pro­grammes pro­vide a year’s worth of higher-learn­ing in a ten-week im­mer­sion pro­gramme. Can­di­dates spend 40 hours per week learn­ing, test­ing and ap­ply­ing rel­e­vant and spe­cial­ist knowl­edge that can then be in­te­grated back into the work­place.

“The pro­grammes will fast­track the ap­plied learn­ing of some of the most sought-af­ter skillsets in the world right now, fos­ter­ing an in­vest­ment that has the po­ten­tial to take New Zealand busi­nesses into the fu­ture.”

And so far, the fast-track ap­proach seems to be work­ing. For a rel­a­tively young ven­ture, Tech Fu­tures Lab is al­ready hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the com­mu­nity, with each co­hort of can­di­dates ex­pand­ing the group’s in­flu­ence.

Can­di­dates of the Tech Fu­tures Lab have al­ready gone on to de­liver such pos­i­tive out­comes as de­vel­op­ing game plat­forms to sup­port ran­gatahi (youth) with men­tal health, help­ing com­pa­nies de­sign waste out of their sys­tems, cre­at­ing new so­lu­tions to the hous­ing cri­sis, de­vel­op­ing chat­bots to help in­ter­na­tional stu­dents make sound de­ci­sions about study in New Zealand, sup­port­ing fam­i­lies to man­age cy­ber-risk and em­pow­er­ing se­niors with tech skills.

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