Inside UBC Sauder Executive Education

Dean Robert Helsley discusses executive education, sustainable business, and innovation for positive social change

Dean Robert Helsley shares why “don’t stop learning” is one of the most important pieces of advice he gives to new graduates.

Dean Robert Helsley of UBC Sauder School of Business sat down with Roddy Millar, Editorial Director of IEDP Developing Leaders to discuss responsible leadership, the future of work and the role of professional development in upskilling and retraining. 

City Lit, an adult education college in central London, England served as the setting for the conversation, which began with Millar posing a question about how far the pendulum has swung in pursuit of short-term decision making and profit in business.

“This is something that is well recognized in the business community,” says Helsley. “There is a real groundswell of support to do a better job of emphasizing and developing the potential for businesses and business skills and training to contribute to positive social change.”

He also notes that there are opportunities for the private sector to play an important role in addressing these concerns, and educators need to focus on teaching students and future leaders how they can take a broader view of business and carefully consider the impact of decisions.

Dean Helsley speaks about the importance of considering the impact of decisions on people and future generations, in addition to profit and prosperity.

“In my experience, one of the most important things that the business school can do to advance this conversation is to collaborate,” says Helsley. “What one typically sees inside universities is that the business school is siloed and it doesn’t engage, to a great degree, with the other faculties and that’s a real lost opportunity.”

When it comes to reaching across disciplines to develop innovative solutions, Helsley says one of the most natural ways is for business schools to be “a facilitator of careers for other people.” 

He points to a program at UBC where a student can study in almost any subject for their undergraduate and get a Master of Management over the course of four and a half years. This provides someone with an intrinsic interest in fields such as music, biology, or history with some complementary business training. 

Dean Helsley explains how UBC Sauder is helping to foster cross-disciplinary education across the university.

In an era of technological disruption and a rapidly changing job market, Helsley emphasizes the importance of equipping students to become lifelong learners.  

“There are vast numbers of people who may be displaced by technology and there’s a large conversation about the future of work and the need for upskilling, retraining in different ways,” says Helsley. “Everything is telling us that there is going to be an enormous need for additional adult education in the future.”

When it comes to the role of business schools in particular, Helsley says, “I expect that will be a big part of the future market for executive education – helping people whose positions may be displaced in some manner by AI or some other technological change to figure out what their next career is going to be and help them take steps towards that career.”

Watch the full interview here.

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