Essential Skills – Learning in a digital, interfaced world

I have talked a number of times now about the concept of Interfaced Learning and as part of the discussions about this concept with a number of my greatly appreciated comment providers, one of the prime discussions has been around the concept of essential skills.  One of the reasons why I like thought experiments around the future of learning is that often they tend to give us quite deep insight into the issues facing us today.  So if we consider the world that I have posited on several occasions now, a world where skills and knowledge can for the most part simply plugged in, utilised and then discarded the concept of what basic skills would be essential for me to possess in order not only to be able to utilise technology like this but to utilise it well.  We can also place these ideas more firmly in the now by thinking about the learning through watching YouTube experience I have also mentioned previously, what skills did I need to have to be able to effectively utilise the skills I acquired through the process of interfaced learning.

Now if we take the example of undertaking some home renovation and picking up required skills along the way through watching YouTube.  It is clear that there are some obvious skills which are required in order to be able to do this, things such as;

  • manual dexterity
  • language and comprehension
  • numeracy and mathematics

But what else do we need, what other skills are essential to our ability to rapidly acquire and utilise new skills and knowledge.   What about skills (which are often thought of as being higher level skills) such as critical reasoning, the ability to evaluate options, the ability to extrapolate information (specific to general and general to specific).  We sometimes criticise the outcomes of learning programs without necessarily considering whether or not these higher level skills are present.  To give you an example I am currently working with a group of youths who are disengaged from the general school environment.  While for the most part they have quite good language, literacy and mathematics skills, one of the things I noticed they were missing very early on was the ability to take skills and knowledge from one environment and utilise them in another environment.  It was almost if they had to relearn skills that they actually had, but were unable to transfer to a new problem or task.  This meant that we actually had to spend a fair amount of time early on trying to teach them how to achieve this transference of information but in the long run it made the learning process much easier on them and us.

 

So I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on  what you think the essential skills are that people need in order to be able to effectively learn.

 

Interfaced Learning – The acquisition and disacquisition of skills and knowledge in the digital world

As some of you may have guessed from my recent posts the #lrn2024 concept has stuck a cord with the philosopher and futurist in me (for those of you who don’t know I am shall we say a Philosopher by trade) and got me thinking about a number of things.  In particular in the changes the way we learn (and I am becoming a little more careful about using this term now) and acquire skills and knowledge.  This is in part driven by the concept that it seems that there may be or may be developing what could a significant difference between what we would traditionally consider to be learning and shall we say the acquisition of a skill or piece of knowledge.  I would argue, and I may at some point, that more so than ever in the past (and I believe this will increase in the coming years) it is becoming possible for me to acquire a skill, in most cases quite rapidly, utilise that skill and then for want of a better word disaquire that skill just as rapidly.

An example of this is my recent renovations of our house, including things like sanding and polishing floors, tiling and cutting and installing trim for the ceiling.  If we take a look at cutting the ceiling trim it provides a great example.  We had done everything else in the bathroom and the last thing to do was the trim between the ceiling and wall, so I went, ‘how hard can it be’ and went and looked at the trim in the rest of the house and the old trim that had been removed and then made an attempt (with a couple of test pieces to make the appropriate cuts.  I failed.  Given this result it was off to the wonderful world of YouTube, where I learnt about mitre boxes and the like, then armed with the knowledge and a rapidly purchased mitre box, proceeded to with relative ease cut and install the trim.  With that task achieved and the likelihood of me needing to do it again in the near future, and the availability of YouTube, promptly disacquired that skill.  Now why do I say disacquire that skill rather than forget, well I haven’t totally forgotten it, could I do it again now without the help of YouTube, probably not, but my reacquisition time would be much less time.  This is also the reason I used the term acquire the skill rather than learn, because I would argue that at no point did I learn the skill cut trim using a mitre box.

Now lets juxtapose this against the more traditional way of learning, or acquiring skills, where one is shown or taught a skill by someone who already possesses that skill and then practices that skill, usually under the guidance again of someone who already possesses that skill, until they are recognised as being able to perform the skill independently.  It is important to note that I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this traditional method,  that its time has passed, or that it doesn’t and will not have a place in the learning environment.  I am suggesting however that this Interfaced Learning (where I acquire skills and knowledge rapidly through some kind of interface device and in most cases disaquire them almost as quickly) is not only upon us, but is something that will increase in usage and application and new technologies and out understanding of the brain and how we learn increases.

It is clear I think that if we look at the rise and usage of not only e-learning and mobile learning, but instructional videos on youtube and a range a n variety of apps from which we can pull information and knowledge when we require it that this concept of Interfaced Learning is already upon us.  Be it a desktop computer, a tablet, a mobile phone, or (and I would love to explore this idea more, and yes this is a shameless plug this lovely piece of tech should be available in Australia) things like Google Glass, we are already surrounded by these interfaces and we use them constantly to access information and to acquire skills and knowledge, which we then utilise and promptly disacquire because we no longer need to that skill, knowledge or piece of information.

In fact it seems to me that there are some fairly mundane examples of this where we have been utilising this process for quite a long period of time, even before the rise of e-learning.  Think of the shared drive or the web portal which holds policies and procedures for an organisation.  Organisations have actively discouraged the printing of documents from these location and actively encouraged staff to check the central repository to ensure the latest knowledge.  Effectively the organisation is saying, don’t learn this, simply access it when you need it and apply it, thus ensuring (hopefully) that everyone is always working with the latest and most correct information.  They are actively promoting the rapid acquisition and disacquisition of knowledge through a readily available interface.

The more I think about this subject the more it seems that moving forward this concept of only holding skills and knowledge is one that is increasing.  We talk a lot about just in time learning, rapid upskilling, knowledge sharing and the like, and most of these concepts are wrapped around the delivery of content through some interface device and in a lot of cases we are not expecting the person to have completely learnt and integrated the skill or knowledge, at least in the traditional sense, after they have access the information once, but we seem to expect them to behave, at least for a short period of time as if they do possess that skill of knowledge.  There also seems every reason to suspect that this interfaced learning process will increase and we will see more and more skills and knowledge delivered to us in this way.

So I would really love to hear any thoughts you might have on this.

Technology – Helping or hindering learning?

Mobile Learning is the next big thing!

We need to gamify that content to engage the learners!

Stunning bite sized e-learning will promote just in time learning on the job!

 

Sometimes these days when I listen to all of the chatter at conferences, online and at meeting and events etc  about the world of Learning and Development I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t perhaps just sounding a little bit like the new song by Weird Al

 

Weird Al Yankovic – Mission Statement

 

and I have to admit it worries me.  It sometimes feels to me like the direction of our thinking is being push or nudged in certain directions by the needs and wants of vendors, both of content and systems, rather than being driven by the needs and wants of learners.  This should not be taken to be a criticism of vendors in general (what is it they say ‘some of my best friends are vendors’) , it is their job to promote their products and services as much as they can and to be fair L&D folk seem to love new technology, new ways of connecting and new things to explore, I know I do.  However isn’t in the long run the outcome for the learner and in a lot of cases the organisations they work in what is important.  I see lots of stuff about how new technologies help learners in Higher education, school etc and this seems to be used as evidence that the same things will work in organisations or in other types of learning environments and as I have said before I am not quite so sure that is the case.

I am happy to accept that there are instances of organisations fully implementing these new technologies and having fantastic results, there seems to be a number of ‘case studies’ and ‘anecdotal evidence’ to suggest that it can be successful.  However there also seems to be quite a range of stories out there about it not working for one reason or another, usually because user engagement was an issue, or to paraphrase that statement – staff didn’t want to do organisationally required learning in their own time,  they wanted to do the training in a face to face environment, or they wanted something really hands on, not simulated.

I guess what I am saying here is that flipped learning might be great in K-12, MOOC’s might work for universities, gamification might engage GenY learners, but do these things actually work or work as well in organisational settings, or are the expectations, needs, wants and outcomes of the people we train and the organisations work with, not a great match for some of these things despite what the ‘research’ might say.  After all how unbiased is an article or paper on the virtues of gamificiation if it is written or sponsored by a gamification vendor.

Sure it is great to explore all of the new and wonderful ways in which we can engage learners and provide truly outstanding outcomes for our clients, but in the long run shouldn’t how we deliver learning be based (at least in part) on who the learners want to learn.

 

 

 

Learning Spaces or Spaces to Learn – What can we learn from delivering training to the homeless.

The concept of where and how learning programs are delivered has been on my mind a little bit lately, particularly since a particularly good presentation I attended recently on the interface between homeless persons and training delivery.  One of the key points which was bought up during the presentation and subsequent conversations was the fact that if we take a group of people like those who either homeless or at risk of homelessness, we will tend to find that there are a raft of other issues that sit with and around the issue of homelessness and all of these issues will have a significant impact on the delivery of training programs to people within these groups.  These impacts are things like;

  • a mindset of failure particularly around academic/scholastic pursuits
  • uncomfortableness in traditional learning environments (classrooms)
  • limited ability to travel to get to training venues
  • limited support network
  • possibility of having to move a significant distance from where training is conducted to secure accommodation
  • limited financial means

These issues and a range of others mean that it is difficult if not impossible to deliver training within what could be considered traditional environments.  This means that learning programs need to be adapted and delivered in different ways such as;

  • within the environment where the person already is and is comfortable
  • shorter sessions to allow participants to take care of their other priorities (it is difficult to concentrate from 9-5, but imagine how much more difficult it would be if you were worried about finding a bed for the night)
  • a wide range of learning activities to engage participants in a variety of ways
  • changing assessment models to ensure that all participants are able to display in competence in ways that are most effective for them

The thing is when I started to think about developing and delivering learning programs, particularly workplace programs it struck me that most of the adjustments that I was considering were things that we should be doing anyway.   We spend large sums of money on creating physical spaces for people to learn in, or online platforms delivering state of the art gamified elearning, when in reality the participants are probably going to learn more from a 2 hour session held in the staff room, coupled with solid support tools to allow them implement the things they have learnt.

And to be honest I think the problem might be us, it is far more challenging to deliver training in a staff room, a homeless shelter or a skate park where there are a range of other things happening in the background, than it is to deliver the same training in our lovely state of the art training room.  Walking though an instruction manual or workbook with a participant is far less fun for us than creating sexy video content or gamifiying our learning programs, but does it make the participant more comfortable and able to learn better.

We need to be able to create spaces for people to learn, that fit with what they need, not with what makes us comfortable.

I dont want to be a trainer all my life!

Career progression in L&D in general and the Australian VET sector in particular

 

Over the past couple of weeks I have encounters a number of conversations or articles, one example of which is by the ever erudite Sukh Pabial, around how to get started or how to progress ones career in the world of L&D.  While I firmly believe that L&D really is the HR sweet spot, some of the comments and issues that have been raised about the L&D industry seem quite valid both from an international point of view and from an Australian perspective.  The question I have been asked a number of times recently has been, ‘How do I get started in training?’  My initial off the cuff response, at least to those people in Australia was to go out and get their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, but recently I have realised that I was actually embedding quite a lot of assumptions in the statement I was making, mainly I think due to the fact that I have been involved much more heavily in the management of L&D and training in the last few years than the coal face shall we say.

This minor revelation came about when myself and a long time friend were talking about how we get involved in the industry and realised that both of us started outside the VET sector, delivering non nationally accredited training in fee for service providers and that neither of us when we started had a TAE qualification and worked for a number of years quite successfully without every needing it.  But now it seems that everyone in the training industry and beyond whether involved in the delivery and assessment of accredited training or not, expects that everyone will at a minimum have the TAE qualification.  But what about an HR person with a degree and a specialisation in Learning and Development, do they need to get the entry-level qualification on top of their other qualifications.  Definitely, if they want to deliver training, or and let’s be fair here, even work in the RTO/VET sector in Australia, but more and more it is simply expected that those involved in L&D in this country with have a TAE.  Now I am not intending to argue whether or not this is a good thing or the value of the qualification or anything like that, but and I come back to my revelation, getting the qualification is not by necessity the first thing you should do if you want to become involved in L&D, what you really need is experience.

Now I am not talking here of just experience in training and L&D or HR, I am talking about a wider workplace experience, that begins to develop your depth of knowledge about how organisations and the people within them think and work.  This was driven home to me recently when I was having a conversation with a younger person who was taking part in a TAE program and when she was asked what it was wanted to train and why she wanted to do the course, she responded by saying she didn’t know what she wanted to train, but she just really wanted to train and teach people and become part of the L&D/Training industry.  I mean I wish her the best but with a Cert IV TAE, a generalist business degree and almost no experience, I think it might be a very hard road for her.

But what about when you are already in the industry, most of us involved in L&D and the VET sector are very passionate about what we do, we do it because we love it, it is as they say ‘in our blood’, but and this is what really struck me about Sukh’s post was there is little or no career progression within organisations, be they dedicated training organisations or L&D units within businesses.  Unlike a lot of other career pathways, you don’t start in a junior role and slowly progress into more senior positions, for me like Sukh, all of my career progressions have been because I have moved roles from one organisation to another.  We tend it seems to hire trainers as trainers and don’t really offer them a pathway to anything else, except perhaps ‘Senior Trainer’ or the like.  So they train for as long as it excites them and then they either leave the profession or they look for other roles outside the organisation they are in.  The same goes for Admin people and Compliance people and the works, we seem to want to pigeon-hole people and once they are in their hole, that is what we continue to think of them as.  Then as an added ‘bonus’ in Australia you have the TAFE, Training providers, organisational divide, where it would be exceedingly rare for someone to be given a role in a TAFE that had not had experience in a TAFE, though in reality there is very little difference between running a TAFE, a large training organisation or an organisation L&D department.  And the same goes in other directions as well, most non TAFE people think TAFE folk are boring, conservative and not terribly innovative, TAFE people thin commercial providers are cowboys out for a buck and corporate L&D thinks itself aloof from everyone.

So I wonder whether we can have the kind of progression in the L&D world that we might see in other professions, I think the problem for us is that there are a lot choices available to people who want to be involved in this sector of the workforce, and a lot of different avenues for people to explore and often the higher you get up the food chain and the more experienced you get the less you end up doing the things that make you passionate about this life we call L&D.

You can take your Resilience and shove it!

Or how small things can radically alter training outcomes.

I am often amazed by how what seem like quite small things to us can be absolute deal breakers when it comes to student outcomes in training programs.  Let me give you an example we use the word Resilience, in a lot of our training and workshops, because well a lot of the work that we do is about or with people in crisis and how to assist them while at the same time looking after yourself appropriately.  This could be in the context of mental health, suicide, natural disasters anything really and up until recently the word resilience has never caused us any issues, or adversely effected the outcomes of training.  While working a group of people recently the word resilience and what it meant became a bit of a focal point and as a result we have altered a range of our training programs in response.

So what was the problem?  The problem was that this group and now several others has seen the word resilience as a cop-out, a way of saying, we are not going to actually do anything to help you because we you are ‘resilient’ enough to help yourselves.  The groups had heard the word so often and in so many context where it resulted in no assistance for them, that they had attached a very negative connotation to the word.  So much so in fact that a number of people who would have come to and greatly benefited from the workshop didn’t attend because the work resilience was used in the flyers and promotional materials.

This has really got me wondering though.  How often, despite our best efforts do the words we use in our promotional materials and our training and workshops, have a very different meaning for other, than they do for us and is there any way for us deal with this.  I am not suggesting that we should try and craft the universal, inoffensive language for training, because usually where I have seen attempts at this (read most things written with extreme political correctness) the meaning and importance is lost and I think even less people end up being engaged.  What I am suggesting though is that I think this happens more often than we think, it is just that most of the time people dont say anything at least not publicly, they just say to themselves and their friends, ‘Ah they just banged on about resilience again, same as the last lot,’ and they and their friends and acquaintances never come back.

I would be really interested in hearing if anyone else has had a similar experience.  it would also be great to hear any ideas that people have about how they got over this type of thing.

Trainer Ultilisation, trainer quality and learner outcomes

How many hours a week should a trainer deliver Face to face training?

What is a manageable, reasonable and maintainable number of hours a week in which a trainer can deliver face to face training, and does delivering very high hourly levels of face to face training have an adverse effect on the quality of the training and the learner outcomes?

So the old TAFE award in Queensland said 21 hours a week was the amount a time a trainer could be scheduled for face to face training, so in my book that is three days of training.  The rest of the time was for preparation, marking, administration, professional development and other related activities.  However and this I think is where the question gets interesting, what if the Trainer is a full-time staff member, so 38 Hours a week, and the training is all already developed, there is only a small percentage of marking/assessment involved and most of the administration is done by dedicated administration staff.  Is say 4 days of face to face a sustainable level, where the trainer wont burn out over a period of time and quality and learner outcomes wont suffer?

Before I continue I will say that I think 3 days of face to face a week (60%) of workload, is a good minimum standard.  I say this because I have over the years been involved in roles where the levels of face to face training were much higher and after a while (and really to be honest not all that long), the quality of the presentation and the outcomes for the learner decline.  In my single biggest year as a trainer I trained over 3000 people face to face and worked in excess of 190 days, which works out on average to be 4 days a week. (The fifth day of the week was more often than not taken up with travel)  This I can tell you from first hand experience is unsustainable in the long-term and perhaps even in the medium term.

The other part of this question then also relates to assessment.  Through our RTO we have a fairly large number of students, a lot of whom are doing, assessment only, RPL, distance learning for most of their learning, so for a number of our trainers rather than delivery of face to face training making up the bulk of what they do on a daily basis, assessment is the prime component and for others it is about s 50/50 split.  So therefore a follow-up question is, is it reasonable to expect a trainer might be fully utilised (100% 5 out of 5 days) doing only either face to face training plus assessment?  If that doesn’t seem unreasonable what then is a reasonable split between training and assessment or is it just a scheduling and workload issue at that point?

I have to admit that I have reservations however about suggesting that a trainer/assessor could be for all intents and purposes 100% utilised simply doing training and assessment, without there being a decline in the quality of both the training and the assessment activities and as a result a decline in the learner outcomes.

The final question then is should utilisation be made part of performance reviews, particularly in a situation where the trainer has no control over the amount of training or assessment that will be required on a week to week basis as it is really not about their performance, it is just a question of volume of work.

I would be really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks about this and how (if at all) they use trainer utilisation within their organisations.

2013 ASTD State of the Industry Report

So as many of you know I am an avid consumer of the ASTD’s yearly State of the industry Report and guess what, the 2013 edition is now available.

So what does it have to save about the world of L&D this year. Well it is interesting, there is not a lot of change from last years report.  We see that spending on L&D globally was about $164.2 Billion with an average direct expenditure per employee of about $1,195.  In terms of Average Direct Expenditure, this represents a very small ($13) increase over last year.

Again however Learning hours used per employee stuck at around the 30 hours mark, 30.3 this years to be exact.  On suggestion for this stalling over the last four years in the increase in usage of non-traditional instructor led training and the more informal, workplace, just in time learning which is much harder to track and quantify.  We also see that Direct expenditure as percentage of payroll rise only slightly to 3.6% as has the Direct expenditure of percentage of revenue rising slightly to 1.32%.

There has also been little or no change in the percentage of expenditure taken up by internal costs which remains steady at 61.5%, lower that 2009 (62.4%) but higher than last year (60.5%).  There has however, been a not insignificant (5%) drop in the number of employees per L&D staff member which now sits at 299:1, there is an even more startling drop of  around 40%, in this number in the ASTD BEST organisations, taking the number there from 288:1 down to 178:1.

The cost of learning has also gone up both in terms of the cost of providing one hour of training to one employee, rising to $89 and the overall cost of developing one hours training rising to  $1,772, a rise of 20% over the last 4 years.  Some reasons suggested for this increase if the up front costs of technology and the reduction in the ratio of employees to L&D staff members.

Managerial and Supervisory training makes up the largest content area for Learning programs, closely followed by mandatory and compliance training, business process and practices, and industry specific training with these four areas taking up just of 40% of all the learning programs delivered.  How these programs were delivered tells what I think is an interesting story however, while yet again, instructor led classroom delivery dropped (5% down to 54.28) and technology based learning rose slightly to 39.20% which is not unexpected.  What I find interesting is that  All Online delivery has remained around the same percentage, (27.29% this year) since 2008.  When you pair this with the fact that instructor lead training (either classroom or online/remote) accounted for some 70% of all training delivered, it seems to suggest, at least in my opinion that participants like to have instructors to interact with even when utilising online training.  The other final thing I find interesting about the content and delivery data is that while there was a big jump in the percentage of hours used in terms of mobile technologies between 2009 and 2010, this usage has flattened out of the last three years remaining at 1.51%

So what does all this data mean?  A couple of comments I would make would be that

  1. Instructor led learning is still the preferred method of delivery for a large amount of participants,
  2. New technologies may have had a quite significant effect on the overall cost of the development of training,
  3. Mobile learning is not the powerhouse, game changing, way of the future that everyone keeps suggesting it is.

I would be interested to know what others think of the data and what it means for the industry.

Can you teach innovation and entrepreneurial skills

So, Can you?

I have read a number of articles recently were Governments, business and various luminaries have suggested that what we need to be doing more of, what we need to be teaching more of is how to be innovative, how to entrepreneurial, however, and this is my sticking point here, can we actually teach these skills or more importantly, if we can teach a set of skills with we deem to be entrepreneurial skills them will that actually make people more entrepreneurial.  Will teaching people ‘innovation’ skills lead to more and greater innovation or more innovators.

My answer – I am really not sure.

 What makes me not sure is something very simple, is there something about, truly great innovators, entrepreneurs, and even leaders that isn’t teachable.  Even if we can distill what makes a true innovator down to a set of definable skills, which we can impart to others, will the people we impart the skills to become truly great innovators or do they need something else.

Not everyone who plays sport (no matter how much they train) will go on to be the best in the world, or even approach being the best in the world, or even their country or state.  Why, well, for a range of reasons, genetics for one, luck, environment, other people, there are a range of reasons.  Do they gain skills and knowledge through the process yes, does that make them an athlete, maybe, does it make them a truly great athlete, probably not.

I have seen lots of people struggle through courses and programs, Leadership, Innovation Entrepreneurship and other such topics, because their employer wanted to them to, they had to have it move forward in their careers, or they had been marketed the hype that these courses would really teach them how to be innovative.  Did it work? In some cases probably, but in a lot of cases, they went back to their roles, they continued their jobs, they did what they were good at, and were successful at it.  They were successful at it because it was what they were good at or what they enjoyed.

Teaching someone entrepreneurial skills, who is really not interested in being entrepreneurial, seems to me, like a lot of these sorts of training to be a real waste of time and resources, and even more so if it turns out that we can’t really teach people how to be entrepreneurial in the first place.

Workforce participation, Training for the long term unemployed and the needs of industry.

I attended a very interesting breakfast earlier in the week, (thanks to the wonderful people at Busy@work)  where the central topic of discussion was around the subject of how to better unemployed and underemployed people with industry needs in order to facilitate meaningful return to employment.  Aside from a range of other issues that were discussed one thing that was raised a number of times was the gap between the skill level of, in particular long-term unemployed, and to be even more particular long-term unemployed youth, and the skill needs of industry and business.

So I got to thinking what are those basic skills that employers, large or small, need job seekers, particularly those coming from medium to long-term unemployment to have, in order for the employer to feel comfortable employing them initially and to retain them.  so I have come up with a list of what I think those really, really basic skills are, so here goes:

  1. Punctuality – The ability to be at work and ready to start work, at the time their day/shift/whatever begins.  I was always taught when I was young and in my first couple of jobs, both when I was at high school and in the workforce, that you should be there 10-15 minutes before your starting time so that you were ready and able to start work on time.
  2. Appropriate clothing and accessory choices – All work places have rules and expectations, some safety related, some organisational and culturally related.  Insisting that you wear a long sleeve shirt,  that your uniform is clean and or ironed, that you removed some of your piercings, are not unreasonable requests.  when I was in the police force in the very early days of my career (it was my first job) our Senior Sargent used to check our uniforms, shoes etc, to make sure that we looked professional and well turned out before we went out in public, representing the organisation.
  3. Basic maths – If you cant figure out that $1.60 is the out of $10.00 when I purchase an $8.40 item, without the use of a cash register or calculator, then you probably shouldn’t be working in a role that requires basic maths, and it shouldn’t be up to an employer to give you training in basic maths.
  4. Basic appropriate communication/language skills – I am not suggesting that new job seekers  or those returning from long-term unemployment need to have the communications skills of senior executive or master facilitator, but they do need to be able to talk to customers, in a polite, respectful, understandable manner.
  5. Basic customer service skills – I don’t care what job you are in, you have customers, they might be internal or external, but you have them, everyone needs to have some level of customer service skills, even if it is don’t swear at the customer when they ask you a question, because it drags you away from your txt/facebook conversation.
  6. Basic understanding of business – Really all I am saying here is understand that a business is not going to change its policy on facial piercing, simply because it is your preference to have a three-inch, pointed, metal stud protruding from the center of your forehead.  It is an understanding that they work for someone else and that working there comes with a set of rules and expectations,both from the business and from the clients of the business.

Now certainly there are going to be roles out there that are appropriate for the groups of people that I am talking about here that require, different or higher levels of skills to the ones listed, but for most entry-level positions, having these six basic skills, place those candidates head and shoulders above all of the others.

How do we give youth, long-term unemployed and other groups, these skills.  Is it something that young people should have been taught at school,  (particularly maths and communications), or come from parents and role models (punctuality and politeness), some of it should and for those that have it, it probably has.  Unfortunately though, for some long-term unemployed, whether they are in the youth demographic or not, even if they did have these skills at some point (and a lot of them probably didn’t), they have dissipated with lack of use over time.

The bigger issue for me, (and this seemed to be a bit of a theme at the breakfast) is how do we teach these people these skills.  In Australia we have government-funded organisations, whose roll it is to assist people with entering or reentering the workforce, particularly those who have been unemployed for a significant period of time, but still we seem to have this situation where candidates turn up for interviews and ongoing employment without even the basic skills i have listed and then we wonder why business and employers either don’ take them on in the first place or only retain them for a short period of time.

I would really like to hear what people think, both about my basics skills list and any ideas about how we might better be able to increase these skills in the people that need them most.

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