There is a funny joke going around.
Businesses are blaming the education system for not being able to hire skilled employees <reading between the lines … it is not our fault we are not doing as well as we could be>.
It makes me laugh out loud.
And it is a bad joke <if not just out & out bullshit>.
Is there a dearth of talent waiting to be hired these days?
Of course not.
I had an article in my files from maybe 2000 or so that said this:
“… a recurrent complaint by firms is that they cannot get enough college graduates with the right skills to staff up for growth. Yet an extensive study in the early 1970’s and the late 1990’s found that American colleges produced more than enough graduates in technology, engineering and maths to meet demand. The problem was that a growing proportion of them did not pursue careers in their field of study. Some may have been lured by the siren song of Wall Street and many others concluded that it did not offer a stable career.”
Pick whatever year you want since a formalized education system has been set up so that the everyday person has access to lower and higher education.
This issue is crazy.
And wasted energy.
I am certainly not going to suggest that the existing education system is perfect.
In fact … I may actually suggest that one of the issues today is probably a reflection of how the education system has already responded to business ‘demands’ <or societal pressure for ‘measured results’>.
What I mean by that is an unfortunate result of trying to match up with business is that information and skills have been segregated into discrete disciplines in order to manage them more effectively for student learning <i.e., math is separated from science is separated from English is separated from history>.
We have attempted to create silos of isolated disciplines in the minds of students and have assumed that they will assimilate and integrate this information successfully to solve real problems in life and work <this is a mirror of today’s business acumen of ‘specialized expertise’ rather than general knowledge>.
Even fewer can apply what they’ve learned to experience and practice.
I don’t argue that today’s job market requires some skills … but if you agree that those skills include some level of proficiency in technical, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills … well … how is that different than the past?
I sometimes believe we confuse the true definition of skill.
We so often silo the definition within some incredibly tight constraint of learning and application of that learning that we overlook the fact skills are almost inevitably driven by the Pareto rule … the 80/20 rule.
80 percent of skill is proficiency in just that skill … while 20 percent is proficiency in … well … anything else but that.
Am I suggesting schools dedicate 80% of the curriculum to a specific skill for a student? Nope.
Because the young are 100% curious.
And curriculum should be dedicated to filling that 100% to the brim. Life places you on the journey and you start moving mentally. As you travel … and frankly the farther and faster you travel the better for your mind … the closer and closer you get to the 80/20 mix and your particular area of expertise.
But … and there is a really BIG but here … if you agree with this thought … 80/20 of a plus sized learning is significantly different than 80/20 of a regular sized or even a ‘skill focused’ sized learning.
And while it’s fair to urge young people to gain ‘specific basic business skills’ … schools play a larger role in preparing children for productive careers … they also prepare children for a productive Life.
Simplistically … if you could guarantee me that every child will not only know what they will be good at and happy doing at the age of 10 to 12 … then I will change the entire education system to focus their skill development on that.
But that is not realistic nor is it Life.
Oh. I will also take a moment and point out another thing to businesses trying to outsource their training to schools.
If you want to suggest that a 10 to 12 year old should be beginning to decide what direction they want to take in Life I will point out that I believe about 50% of the people I began my employment with ultimately ended up in a completely different job in a completely different industry.
Most were qualified … it just wasn’t what they wanted to do forever. My point? 50% of 20something year olds did not know what they wanted to be, an do, when they grew up. And they were out of school.
And you know what?
Businesses know that.
In fact in the good ole days the incoming training was actually to help you decide whether this was the right job for you.
Gobs of people are qualified to do just about anything.
But gobs of people don’t want to do ‘just anything.’
Therefore … focusing on specific career skills without the knowledge of how the world operates intellectually is not fair … to the children nor to the world itself <let alone businesses I may add>.
If we do such a thing … will businesses then assume the responsibility to teach their young employees about Life?
Will we give businesses the responsibility for shaping thinking <without bias>?
How about amassing knowledge beyond their specific expertise as a way to better become thinkers in their own expertise?
I have to be honest.
I don’t want to entrust businesses to do this.
Their current selfish <some warranted and some unwarranted> behavior doesn’t instill confidence with these responsibilities.
Today’s business world appears to have a desire to off-load training costs for their own potential employees <who are borrowing gobs of dollars> to get the training that a company seems unwilling to offer.
And they are being exponentially stupid because in the end they will find that all this ‘training’ doesn’t really match up exactly with what they want <so they may not hire anyway>.
And yet they also seem to be more than willing to make investments into office space features like free coke in the kitchen, ping pong tables, flex time and whatever feature you want to suggest which doesn’t really add any benefit to the skill or company output but is environmental.
And, lastly, these same companies seem to be more than willing to fire anyone even if they did the investment in their own training.
<yikes to all of that>
Maybe I could suggest to companies that they engage the labor market with something more than a promise of ping pong tables and free coke in the cafeteria and maybe offer a vision for the company, higher initial salaries, training on the job and job security.
For centuries businesses have induced labor to acquire skills by paying salaries, training and then promoting.
They didn’t demand that employees hit the ground running.
Imagine the company in today’s business world who recruited young people by simply saying ‘will train.’
Show people that they are not only willing to Invest in people but WANT to invest in people.
<kids will be lining up outside your door>
Then your employees will know exactly what you want them to know.
Yeah … yeah … yeah.
All those silly businesses claiming there is no loyalty and young people job hop and the fact that in today’s world there is no job stability.
Shut the fuck up.
If your company bleeds talent on a daily <or some consistent> basis … it ain’t them … it’s you.
Students get an education hoping for careers … not jobs.
Is that semantics? Possibly. But an important one.
We need to be educating that while technical skill sets come and go the business world continues to be conducted with cognitive thinking and critical thought.
We need to begin understanding that education is a superior investment for a longer future perspective … not just the entry level job.
If businesses really do give a shit about this issue <and just aren’t blathering like they have a tendency to do> … businesses should consider online as supplemental schooling.
Am I suggesting business should go into the education business?
But I am suggesting that if you are a business and you are demanding that someone have some specific skill from which their future employment could depend on … then offer it to them … and partially <if not completely> subsidize it.
Businesses should consider how online learning can bring high-quality career education to more students and to invest in the tools and curriculum to make it possible. It enables more students <potential employees> to pursue instruction in any field you may believe is important to your company’s purpose <or this could be an industry association skill learning center>.
Look. If businesses don’t like the existing vocational system … then rebuild it.
They benefit so why shouldn’t they?
I could suggest that we have entered a more global-view economy <albeit I would argue that “global” is simply a compilation of “local” work> with some aspect of technology as a core business acumen and traditional vocational education was created to teach manual skills for the industrial and agricultural sectors of our economy.
You may think community and technical colleges <who do not usually refer to their offerings as “vocational” choosing instead descriptors such as “career” or “technical education”> would fulfill this role but these tech ed programs are mostly filled with adults <average age 29 years>, many of whom require additional education in the basics in math, science, and communication and who generally take one or two courses <part time> to help them get new jobs or to refresh their skills.
Oddly when viewing this whole ‘businesses bitching about less-than-qualified candidates is the fact that with the rapid transformation to an information based economy … businesses are actually placing less value on short term skills and more value on one’s ability to work as part of a team and to synthesize, integrate, apply, and build on basic knowledge <and how is an education system going to do that?>.
But businesses <or I> designing the education system is ludicrous.
The issue is not “skills versus knowledge” for some students.
It is the appropriate combination of skills and knowledge for all students.
While I have slammed businesses for trying to take this stance that ’there is a dearth of skilled talent to hire’ I will take a moment and make a point about the education system.
I absolutely believe the silo mentality needs to be rethought but the real issue to me is <partially using some words I found somewhere> that the current state of American education is now a mish-mash of public, private and charter schools each on its own divergent mission.
What may be worse is that we flail about expounding the latest TED speech, or adopt a fad like 1-to-1 learning, but it is all talk and no action. Actual coaching, facilitating and teaching ends in the flailing.
The needs of the generations-after-next, generations that require interconnected, non-silo interdisciplinary studies from the moment they log on to the Internet or set foot in a brick and mortar setting is being ignored <or worse … being mis-directed because of businesses bitching>.
The legacy educators who dominate policy and curriculum development from kindergarten, college and professional education seem to fear not only change but the diffusion of their own power with academic departments, school districts and unions.
I believe we should destroy most of the non-interdisciplinary studies. Humanities and the Sciences, integrated and competently taught in combination with science/more technical skills would provide a far more dynamic learning environment for students.
I tend to believe that proposed national education standards such as the Common Core Standards or those represented in the No Child Left Behind Act are nonsensical in a world where businesses are asking for people who can act and think across time, place and culture. What purpose is a fact without context and framing?
I believe the current standardized testing <SAT & ACT> should be eliminated at some point.
The SAT dates back to World War I and seems to incorporate a military ideology standardized testing to rapidly assess practical skillsets <note: I say this because the old traditional business structure & culture was also based on a military hierarchical organization command and control structure>.
I believe that without bright, interdisciplinary minds we risk losing the freedom of the individual. Education should empower the individual to be the best possible … reach whatever heights the individual can reach. This skill should not be for ‘a few.’
It is a civilization Truth that cross disciplinary minds and the internet will inevitably the main tools available to counter false and damaging narrative that try and infringe upon freedom in every day Life <freedom of thinking and thoughts>.
Businesses know this <and shame on them for dumbing it down> but learning is a complex and multifaceted process that goes far beyond drill-oriented, skills focused stimulus and response methodologies.
Interdisciplinary learning encourages discovery of meaningful relationships between abstract ideas and practical applications.
Today’s schools shouldn’t be filled with technical courses that “teach the task” or simply require memorization. They should include interdisciplinary learnings and knowledge combined with mind challenging tasks that inevitably lead to thinking & problem solving.
It seems that people are forgetting, and businesses are losing sight of, the fact that most real world problems <and tasks> are not compartmentalized in only one academic discipline <i.e., math problem, physics problem, history problem> but rather they involve some complexity … requiring a somewhat abstract base of knowledge with which to integrate and synthesize information. I say this even when discussing what is condescendingly called ‘menial tasks’ because the truth is that many real world problems are open ended and do not have a single best solution.
We need to build on the knowledge and skills acquired in the academic disciplines by combining them to solve the real, complex problems that confront the global workforce of the future business world <and civilization>.
I believe public education should not be providing narrow job training in high school, nor should it track any students and/or limit their opportunities to pursue further education.
I do believe the education system needs to seriously consider new ways to deliver career-related curriculum <within a contextual interdisciplinary scenario>.
Personally I believe that education systems should be as flexible as possible while being built around core values and skills.
And yet I also believe the system should be intrinsically bound up with the work market, particularly at the higher levels, so that schools are producing workers with the basic skills to meet incoming requirements to ‘get some work done’ at the job they desire.
But the idea of business blaming the education system for lack of qualified skilled talent is a joke.
A really bad joke.
And it is bullshit.