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Higher education requires long-term planning. Colleges and universities need to offer a curriculum that will provide the skills society needs in the future. But what exactly will society need in the future? You need a crystal ball to know – which just happens to be the name Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences chose for their AI-driven solution.

Based in Finland, Haaga-Helia has 11,000 students and 650 experts. They are strongly oriented towards the needs of business, and focus on sales and services, entrepreneurship, innovation and internationality. They developed an AI solution to compare what they are teaching and what future employers will need.

“It is impossible for an individual or even a group of individuals to analyse all of the data available,” explains Pasi Tuominen, project director at Haaga-Helia. “We use machine learning to analyse this data and give us actionable insight so decisions can be made about the curriculum.”

Providing the skills needed in the future

The solution is called Crystal Ball, and was made by Haaga-Helia and their partners Headai, Stereoscape and Realfiction. Visitors to the Dubai Expo’s Finland Pavilion can see the solution and how it can open doors to future careers.

Tuominen points out one of the beauties of Crystal Ball is how it lets you see the data. The results of the AI analysis are seen in 3D animated holographic displays which are easy to understand.

“It allows you to visualise large amounts of data in a readable format,” he says. “The software shows you the reality of what is needed. How do companies perceive the skills they need and how does this meet our existing curriculum? How far apart are they from each other?”

The system analysed thousands of job openings in Austin, Brussels, Dubai, Helsinki, Nairobi and Singapore and compared them with different programs at Haaga-Helia such as ICT, global business administration, sports coaching, vocational teaching and hospitality and tourism.

Innovative, tailor-made education

Crystal Ball revealed one thing that may surprise some people: the skills demanded vary between geographic locations almost as much as between different jobs.

“If you look at the skills a hotel general manager needs in Austin versus what one needs in Nairobi, you realise that employers look for significantly different skill sets in different cities,” says Tuo-minen. “We must consider the skills needed not just for different professions, but for different areas around the world as well.”

This places a challenge on institutions of higher education. In the modern world many people study abroad and then take jobs in other countries. Yet with the help of AI a university could develop a unique education path for an individual based upon their plans and the needs of where they would like to work.