EDUCATION: TECH FUTURES LAB
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.