The best chess players in the world – grandmasters – think up to eight moves ahead.  

So must the best educators. 

Economic development agencies across Canada – CalgaryToronto and Vancouver, for example – have placed a heavy focus not only on attracting top technological talents to their turf, but “getting smarter” in general – the education incubator is often a hot political topic, too. 

With such a wide net cast on a smarter Canada, what does the education industry landscape look like here? 

 

Rising Costs 

The biggest watercooler element comes from cost; those approaching the post-secondary landscape (and their parents) lament the drastic rise in prices over the last decade-and-a-half; In 2006/2007, undergraduate students paid an average of $4,211 in tuition fees for the academic year; that number has ballooned to an average of $7,304 for the 2020/2021 academic year. That’s a rise of 58%; for argument’s sake, the inflation-adjusted rate from 2006 would be closer to $5,600. 

What are the side effects? For outreaching student populations, it means trust is harder to build. The last thing a student wants is a lighter wallet, but in this shifting economic landscape, these same students need to keep their options open.  

 

The Next Big Gig 

Could you think of the most common five jobs in America 100 years ago? How about the top five 100 years from now?  

As you can imagine, they’re going to be a little different (the answer to that question involves lots of retail personnel and dairy workers) – beyond those professions, millwrights, toolmakers, textile workers, carpenters, and teachers round out the top ten. This Business Insider article on the “best future jobs” shows some striking parallels, but adds a fistful of jobs in the tech sector. Schools have to stay an additional step ahead of content like this, with the further challenge of edging those prospective students in these new, exciting directions.

 

The Enrolment Puzzle 

That brings us to the challenges of enrolment. The pandemic brought rapid, decisive change to the education industry. Many postsecondary schools quickly adapted, redirecting their focus to resources that cultivated online platforms and asynchronous learning; this bridged a valuable, necessary gap, affording those who were newly out-of-work an opportunity to enhance or even revise their core credentials. According to StatsCan, 12.4% of paid Canadian workers between the ages of 15 and 64 have been laid off on a monthly basis in a dataset ranging from February to June of 2020. With programs like the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, many went back to school to re-skill themselves for a new line of work. 

Once that wave rolls away, the forecast calls for a shrunken field of new students. Online platforming for education is a double-edged sword in the education industry; on one hand, you can attract students from much farther away, but on the other – so can everybody else.  

So…

 

Who Stands Apart from the Crowd? 

In the marketing and advertising world, the loudest voice in a market is afforded no guarantee to outshine the competition. The standout schools will be those who capitalize on appeal, and directly connect to a student’s perceptions of the dream job at the end of a program. They also serve to comfort them with a positive impression of the roadmap. After all, education can be a daunting journey. It’s far more than a TV commercial featuring a smiling, grad-cap-donning graduate cracking a grin; payment for a diploma does little justice to the experience.  

 

Messaging 

Messaging that leads with the ignition of ideas, the demonstration of passion, and the connection to community can help invoke a sense of pride, ambition, and enrichment. If this can be achieved in the copy, a bond can be made. 

 

Engagement 

Keeping the student engaged through the process, focused on the outcomes, and connected to the values of the education are all tantamount to future enrolments; experience is everything, and a student’s development as a person can be just as important in shaping the school’s future successes. After all: word-of-mouth marketing works wonders for students, too! 

 

Culture 

Creating community is another matter; the forward-facing messaging has to come from somewhere, and these processes and philosophies will require the breadth of a faculty to buy in completely. That part should be easy – most people know a teacher, and thus know how much passion is baked into their career. Applying branding and messaging that galvanizes a school’s stakeholders – from the department of education to the student body – can serve to increase reach, engagement, morale, and bottom lines. 

It’s worked pretty well for Harvard, and for the Alberta University of the Arts, too. 

The world is in a constant state of academic renaissance. As what we know intermingles with how we interpret and apply our knowledge, we are left looking ahead; whether it’s at the calendar, the next class, the next career, or the chessboard, it pays to think a few moves in advance.