The information revolution is as transformative to our being-in-the-world as capitalism and slavery were to the industrial revolution. While galleons, the compass, the scientific method and the printing press buttressed the rise of merchant capitalism, it is information, algorithms and big data that are central to cognitive capitalism.

The world-wide-web is both the ship and the sea.  The fluid cross-border movement of information and talent empowers citizens to grow their careers anywhere inside the gig economy. Firms will need to tap into overseas talent pools to future-proof their workforce amid the growing globalisation of the jobs market.

A national talent strategy that curbs the flight-of-the-flamingos, attracting cutting-edge foreign talent, nurturing talent across all levels of schooling and rebooting careers on the factory-floor is vital to global competitiveness. The state is the new industrial estate. The promise of boosting and rebooting careers has the greatest hope in the workplace, not the lecture hall. The whole of society is a factory today.

States are now industrial estates with entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators immersed in the free-flow-of-information using the power of the imagination. No thought, no dream, no debate is wasted. They all condense into start-ups.

The entrepreneurial state is the lever and the force of the people will be applied either at the barricade or the ballot-box as in Catalonia. To make the workplace a site for learning and rebooting careers, the state may consider setting up personal learning accounts (PLAs) for employees across the private and public sectors.

Employers may partner with any Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider to design and deliver the education and skills training relevant to the workspace. The employer may point its workers to the selected provider and the state and the firm conjointly fund the enhancement and advancement of the worker using a PLA plan. Workers can be expected to create and maintain personal career profiles. Using “career intelligence,” employees can plot a personal training path. The employer can design nanodegrees to constantly retool its workforce using any MOOC as a training partner. Appraisals can be linked to accessing courses that enable the progression of the employee within the firm.

EdX has developed a MicroMasters in supply-chain management that stands alone or it can count towards a full masters degree at MITx. The University of Wisconsin-Extension has a Learning Store. General Assembly and Pluralsight are rebooting careers inside the workplace. Udacity and Coursera are empowering professionals to burnish their skills as they interleave careers and lifelong learning.

Employers can also enlarge their training budgets to nurture talent. The options over the last decade have been for employers to engage in offshoring self-employed workers, crowdsourcing and automation as they consume work rather than create talent. In 2015 LinkedIn purchased and is now offering courses to reboot the career of professionals using LinkedIn Learning. The LinkedIn Learning platform data is an economic graph or digital map of the global economy. The profiles of all users on the LinkedIn recruitment platform provide feedback on where demand from employers is greatest and what skills a jobseeker will need to hone.

To assure quality within this emerging paradigm of continuous and lifelong learning in the workplace, RMIT University in Australia has partnered with Credly, a credential platform, to issue badges for skills that are valued in the workplace but are not tested formally. Degreed is a start-up that hopes to become the central bank of credentials that provides a standardised assessment of skill levels. Degreed is creating a network of subject-matter experts to assess employees’ skills and is crafting a standardised grading commons. This will reduce the risk of hyperinflation of microcredentials and nanodegrees obtained in competence-based education.

Creating a pull into uncharted waters rich with new training opportunities rather than pushing for education subsidies along roads often travelled is one consideration to drive competitiveness. Perhaps the entire idea of the university is indeed in ruins.