Kofi Annan highlights advantage of business education in uncertain times

Former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan spoke of the “advantage” of having business school education in a world wracked by uncertainty and threatened by potential crises.

Speaking at length about Brexit, Annan noted that business school graduates can “anticipate the changes coming.” The former UN secretary-general and noted statesman was speaking at conference organized by IMD, a prestigious business school in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“The world is changing and changing very fast. Those that have scientific skill[s] in a way, have an advantage. In some situations those with skills with vocational training will have the advantage,” said Annan, according to Times Higher Education.

Annan’s remarks dovetail with research and expert consensus on the business world. Changes in industry are being largely fuelled by new technologies, resulting in career opportunities in the information technology sector.

A report by the World Economic Forum titled The Future of Jobs said that the “industry that stands to create the most jobs, perhaps less surprisingly, is Information and Communication Technology, followed by Professional Services and Media, Entertainment and Information professionals.”

This is likely due to the exponential growth of social media and the rise of e-commerce and cloud technology. Companies around the world are hiring front-line staff to manage their social media accounts. And technological expansion, whether involving infrastructure or the development of apps and websites, is creating a large number of vacancies.

The report’s “survey respondents expect strong employment growth across the Architecture and Engineering and Computer and Mathematical job families, a moderate decline in Manufacturing and Production roles and a significant decline in office and administrative roles.”

This reinforces the need for business graduates to develop specific scientific skills – for example in computing – in addition to their business acumen.

Business graduates are not the only ones that have had to adapt to the changing times. Over the last few years, business schools have been adapting their curriculum to meet the needs of industry, often favoring specialization.

As noted by The Economist, “[m]ost business schools now encourage students to concentrate on one area, such as finance. An increasing number of MBA courses are tailored to particular industries, such as health care, luxury goods or, in one case, wine and spirits management.”

Generalists are at a disadvantage as more and more employers expect candidates to have specialized, in-depth knowledge in a certain field. Students are well-advised to decide on the industry they wish to join early on in their education.

As for Annan, he gave some advice to conference participants. “Listen to what is said, but also to what is not said,” he said, according to an article posted on the IMD website.

“Don’t feel that you have to do things immediately. Take the time to gather at least 60% to 65% of the information, before making a decision.”

Many would agree that those were incredibly appropriate words for anyone looking to pursue a career in business. 

Image via Pixabay.

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