Opinion: 10 ways education and training needs to change
The overwhelming factor driving the economy in the long-term is technology, a seemingly unstoppable force the pandemic has intensified. Artificial intelligence is showing an ability to perform an ever-increasing array of tasks. And that is why the work of the future is human work, the work that only people can do.
To meet the demands of this rapidly changing environment, education and training must change in fundamental ways.
- Address racial disparities One unmistakable effect of the pandemic has been that workers at the lower end of the economy are among those most gravely affected. Many of us who have lost jobs and income are women. We are Black, Hispanic or Latino, and Native American. We may live in rural areas or be new to the country. If we are people of color, we have less family wealth. In addition, we are struggling to experience economic security as lower-skill jobs are automated. Start here.
- Invest in community colleges Community colleges are the 'first responders' in the country’s higher learning system. Instead of allowing budget constraints to erode their capacity to respond, political, civic, and business leaders at every level should be expanding their capacity and helping them market their education and training to students. This first-responder role is especially important during a recession, when community colleges could be helping those who are without work reposition themselves in the labor market.
- Advocate for apprenticeships Other countries have long seen greater value in apprenticeship programs. There is no reason, for example, companies cannot offer more apprenticeship-type opportunities in professional settings. Engineering fields do this with “co-op” programs. As the composition of today’s students comes to resemble the country at large, policymakers and employers must give greater thought to how we can take what we have learned at work and get credit for it without having to sacrifice income or the benefits of regular work. Degree apprenticeships, which combine technical and academic learning, should play a bigger role in preparing people for work in this country. The UK, Germany, and other countries can point the way.
- Recognize today’s student As learning and working become more integrated, 'student' and 'employee' are no longer two different kinds of people. With human work, most of us have full- or part-time jobs, care for children or parents, and deal with transportation, housing, and related issues. Those of us who are not fresh out of high school and need to develop relevant knowledge and skills have been left behind by the country’s outdated education and training systems.
- Lift up all learning With human work, the differences between education and training no longer matter so much. It is an unfair distinction. Every education and training program should lead to further learning (and credentialing) and strong results in the labor market. We and the people who hire us must see the clear benefits of transparent learning outcomes. Policymakers, educators, and labor experts who talk about education and training separately have helped stigmatize the types of learning that involve hands-on labor. This has held back individuals—and the country. What we know and can do is starting to matter a lot more than the brand behind the education or training we participate in.
- Define what we know and can do In a skills-based economy, we need to discern what skills are called for to do a specific work, where and how to learn these skills, and how to talk about our transferable knowledge and skills. This requires far greater transparency about skills and learning across the board. It also means credentials must accurately convey what people know and can do. Everything we learn— even in college — should involve demonstrating mastery and application of important “bundles” of knowledge and skills to measure progress, with a range of credentials that affirm the competencies we have developed.
- Define skills broadly To thrive in the new talent economy, we have to be prepared to think critically, reason ethically, interact personally, and serve others with empathy. Technical skills matter, but what matters more is our capacity to apply these skills to solving problems. Building this capacity will require wide and deep learning, including the ability to keep learning — the most important skill of all.
- Destroy dead-ends Millions of us are falling behind in today’s labor market, and too many are leaving the workforce in frustration. We know the devastating consequences. Simply paying people a guaranteed basic income is not the answer. Each of us, whether an immigrant, a displaced worker, of someone concerned about finding work, needs the opportunity to develop a skillset that enables meaningful work.
- Embrace learning for life We also saddled ourselves with the wrongheaded and dangerous belief that the college we choose when we are 18 determines our lot in life. The linear school-college-work pathway is dead, and along with it the idea of 'once and done' when it comes to education. Jobs are constantly changing, which is why people need to keep gaining new knowledge and learning new skills throughout their lives. Giving all of us the opportunity to keep learning throughout life will enrich our lives in addition to keeping our learning relevant to future work.
- Up the education ante It has been a long time since a high school education was enough to allow most people to have good jobs and provide security for their families. In a job market that places an increasing premium on technical skills, we need more than a diploma if we want realistic shots at good jobs and careers. We need a college degree or short-term credential that delivers better pay, a promotion, or a career in a new field.
Jamie Merisotis is president and CEO of Lumina Foundation and the author of Human Work in the Age of Smart Machines
5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Healthy Workplace Culture
This week (14th-20th June 2021) is Men’s Health Week. Physical and mental well-being have been important considerations for leaders over the past year, and it is essential this focus is maintained as we build back for the future. Here we have asked 5 experts for practical tips leaders can implement to create healthy workplace cultures.
Know the early signs of burnout
Recently it was reported by the BBC that burnout for health and social care staff had reached emergency levels.
Monkey Puzzle Training Co-Founder Karen Meager has studied the burnout recovery process in partnership with Coventry University: “The past year has seen people suffer from job-loss worries, work from home challenges, isolation, and feeling overworked. These are continuing, and all have the potential to contribute towards burnout. Healthcare workers, executives, leaders, managers and small business owners will continue to be the top people to suffer from extreme burnout.”
“At the onset of burnout, people commonly enter a phase of denial. So leaders need to be aware of those who are reluctant to take their time off, are compelled to work all hours, or have changes in their behaviour or mood, as these can all be indications of burnout taking hold. Encouraging them to take a burnout self-test provides a starting point to supporting these employees through recovery, as is role modelling healthy sustainable ways of working.” Karen suggests.
Encourage professional self-reflection
Creating an environment that encourages self-reflection is an effective tool for promoting personal development. Journaling may not be something you instantly think of for professional development; however, it is a successful technique for adults to aid mindfulness and productivity. “Journaling is a form of self-expression that can empower you to understand your feelings and ambitions and how to deal with them, therefore promoting positive well-being and a healthy workplace culture,” describes Elisa Nardi, founder of Notebook Mentor.
“Just 15-20 minutes of journaling a day over the course of four months are enough to lessen the impact of physical stressors on your health,” explains Elisa. “It can also inspire creativity, aid your memory, and help set actionable goals. It is an underused tool that can help employees manage tricky workplace situations such as conflict, illness or new leadership roles.”
Manage your stress and resilience too
As a leader or manager, often, your complete focus is on the business or protecting your team, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. Leaders should also have strategies in place to manage their own stress, so they can sustain high levels of positive energy throughout the day. “Fueled by a burning desire for success, I ignored all the warning signs of exhaustion, which eventually took its toll on me - I literally collapsed from stress, and I didn’t even see it coming.” reflects Sascha Heinemann, an expert in Performance Recovery and Stress Resilience.
“When leaders manage their energy, create healthy daily habits, and practice resilience, they are able to perform to their fullest capacity and to provide the best possible support for others.”
“Taking a break every 90 minutes or so helps you to refuel, recharge, and re-energize and ultimately allows you to get more accomplished, in less time, at a higher level of quality, and more sustainably. This role model contributes dramatically to a healthier, more engaged, sustainable, and productive workplace culture," he adds.
Instil a sense of purpose for your team
The idea that success equals working 12-15 hour days and giving everything of yourself to your workplace continues to prevail in many organisations. This is not healthy, nor is it productive for anyone involved. “The healthiest and happiest workplace cultures are the ones that are organised around purpose.” describes business and life coach Anand Kulkarni.
“Leaders should be giving meaning to the work they are doing within their business and beyond and sharing this purpose with their staff, rather than focusing on long hours, crippling workloads or someone else’s idea of ‘success’. When people understand why they are doing what they do and how this contributes to something greater, productivity and well-being is increased.” adds Anand.
Promote well-being from the top down
Leaders need to act as role models if well-being is to become embedded at the very core of the organisation. It’s very unlikely that employees will start acting in a new way that puts their own needs first if the leadership team continues to behave in an entirely different manner.
‘Many organisations have worked hard in recent months to put new policies in place that better support well-being, promote hybrid working and attempt to set clear boundaries, but many leaders seem to assume that they are exempt from it all, that’s when it all falls over’, explains leadership experts Martin Boroson and Carmel Moore, from The One Moment Company.
A recent ONS report into Homeworking in the UK revealed that people are on average working 6 hours extra per week, and many are working until late in the evening, indicating that the boundaries between work and life are more blurred than ever.
“Despite all of these wonderful opportunities for people to self-organise, if the leadership team continues to work in the office Monday to Friday, or are communicating at all hours, then it’s a clear indicator that hybrid working is simply a ‘bolt-on’ tactic rather than an integral part of the company’s approach to promoting the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.’