Getting the world back to work with skills we can trust
Why the grip held by outdated educational institutions based on historical prestige needs to take a back seat and become student centric!
Article by Diane Shawe M.Ed
If we hadn’t had the most recent global economical crisis and the unrest in certain war torn regions had not occurred, there might have been 62 million more jobs in the world today, according to the International Labor Organisation as it is, there are over 200 million people looking for work across the globe.
To add to our worries: 75 million of these are young people, eager to take that first firm foothold in the ladder of success. We cannot allow them to become a “lost” generation.
The Great Recession has been particularly hard on older workers also, who have had difficulty finding new jobs after being unemployed for long spells. This is especially troubling because of their pressing needs for health care and retirement preparation.
It is also doubtful that the long-term unemployed are going to become more effective jobseekers simply by being forced to visit a Job centre daily if indeed they have a job centre in some parts of the world. But I am going to site that back in 1996, when the Jobseeker’s Allowance was introduced, the requirement to visit a Job centre every two weeks and provide detailed evidence of active job search did not raise overall job search effort among the unemployed.
If explicit job search requirements were not effective in a period of rapidly growing labour demand and falling unemployment, there is no good reason to expect them to be effective in the aftermath of a severe recession and one cannot certainly make a claim to recovery based on one geographical location sprinkled with opportunities driven by technology and property prices.
So clearly, jobs must be a preeminent priority in the years ahead. The major test of the new technological era is simple: can it provide decent livelihoods for all people?
Technology and rising inequality feeds into a broader concern: Technological advance creates a small cohort of big winners, leaving everybody else behind.
Certainly, those with the lowest skills are having the toughest time in today’s economy.
And yet, we also need to discuss what kind of growth this “right track” leads to. Will it be solid, sustainable, and balanced—or will it be fragile, erratic, and unbalanced?
To answer this question, we need to look at the patterns of economic activity in the years ahead, and especially the role of education, technology and innovation in driving us forward.
As Isaac Asimov—a master of science fiction literature—once said: “No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” Isaac Asimov
So I have chosen a big topic and what I want to address in my blog today, in the form of three questions:
1. First, what does this new technological era mean for the economy, especially for jobs?
2. Second, how does it relate to one of the scourges of our age—rising inequality?
3. Third, what about some solutions, including vocational education and what I refer to as the growing need to foster a new thinking around “Entreployability”
The Interlinkages between Technology and the economy
Innovation is pushing ahead at warp speed. We are certainly living through one of the most exciting periods in human history. The pace of change is so fast that even the technology of five years ago seems prehistoric.
Those of you who are students probably do not even remember a time when phones were not smart, when cameras contained film, when texts meant school books, and when wireless was a word used for old-fashioned radio!
This advance is centered on the rise of a global digital network—the “hyperconnected world”—combined with the rise of genuine machine intelligence. Today’s smart phones are more powerful than yesterday’s supercomputers. We see cars driving themselves, printers making complicated three-dimensional parts, and robots doing the most complex tasks. “Science fiction” is rapidly becoming “science fact”.
What does this all mean for our lives and livelihoods, for our common economic future?
If the previous revolutions were about using machines for brawn, this is about using machines for brains. And since technology is powering a giant leap in global interconnectivity, these are “connected” brains! Just look at some of the trends.
Certainly, we can see some worrying trends. For a start, the effects of new machine technology are not showing up in productivity statistics—at least not yet—and productivity is by far the most important driver of long-term economic growth.
Now I am not an expert on the Economy, but we are all touched by it and using common sense I for one can see that there is a looming problem. For instance one of the biggest worries is how technological innovation affects jobs put simply will machines leave even more workers behind?
You may not want to give this a second glance but even seasoned professionals can find themselves cast adrift on an unfamiliar ocean.
My second point about rising inequalities is going to be brief. But here’s a little statistic for you to consider. According to Oxfam, almost half the world’s wealth is owned by one percent of the population and, stunningly, the bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
What is causing such a convulsion in the distribution of income? There is no single factor here, although it seems clear that technology is one of the major factors—it can create huge rewards for the extraordinary visionaries at the top, and huge anxieties for the ordinary workers at the bottom. The speed at which information is sent around the world means that the average disgruntled people who make up the 5 largest country can amplify unrest as they all voice their fears to the small percentage of the world wealth holders.
What about some solutions?
So finally what is the purpose of education in today’s 21 Century, I quote Jane Stanford of Standford University — “with a “spirit of equality”. One of her goals for the university was “to resist the tendency to the stratification of society, by keeping open an avenue whereby the deserving and exceptional may rise through their own efforts from the lowest to the highest stations in life”.
What has happened? Why have these large institutions priced education out of these fundamental principles?
How can we make the new economic age enhance, rather than diminish, our humanity? How can we make this amazing innovation advance the prospects of all people?
It is clear that at the moment Educational systems are not keeping pace with changing technology and the ever-evolving world of work.
Not enough people are thinking strategically enough in this area. Fundamentally, we need to change what people learn, how people learn, when people learn, and even why people learn.
We must get beyond the traditional model of students sitting passively in classrooms, following instructions and memorising material. It is evident that computers can do that for us! A 21st century educational system must focus on the areas where humans can outclass computers—such as in cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, fine motor skills, or sophisticated coding skills. Maybe we need to remind ourselves of the purpose of education and vocational education. I summarise in my words the following:
The purpose of education
The first and foremost purpose of education is to educate and give everyone equal opportunity as a means to succeed in life. Education is a way of igniting and enlightening the thought of an individual.
It should help learners to discriminate between knowledge and ignorance, help to create a spark and create the sense of realisation with logic and a way to reason why the other things are illogical.
The purpose of vocational education
Every man must have a vocation – a trade, a business, or a profession – (if they are able too) in order to earn his livelihood so that they can support themselves, their family and people who cannot help themselves in our society. There are institutions for imparting various types of specialised training to help people qualify for this. The specialist is in demand everywhere, – in the office as well as in factories, in educational institutions and governments.
The traditional belief that we must prepare ourselves to be ‘employable’ is under threat. The counter argument encourages us to ‘gear up’ for earning our own money, rather than seeing income as someone else’s responsibility.
With the population dramatically ageing and low-level jobs increasingly swallowed up by machinery, entrepreneurship will be a necessity for many, rather than a life-style choice for some.
SMEs are of course already leading this charge but in order to gear up for the future we need to start off by asking a serious question, defining criteria’s, and examining trends, impact these trends will have and plan a way to jointly prepare current and future generations to be both employable and entrepreneurial.
We are living in a new economy—powered by technology, fueled by information, and driven by knowledge. And we are entering the new century with opportunity on our side but huge problems that require new thinking.
The Question we should all ask ourselves?
Do you think you have another 20 – 30 years to live Yes [ ] No [ ]
Do you think you have another 30 – 50 years to live Yes [ ] No [ ]
Do you think you have another 50 – 70 years to live Yes [ ] No [ ]
Have you considered what you are going to do for the next 40- 70 years?
What will the job market look like in the next 20 years?
What will you be able to do to solve your problem which could be unemployment and patchy income streams?
What will you be able to do that will solve someone’s problem for which they will pay you a fee?
If computers might even replace our intelligence, they can never replace the capacities that make us truly human: our creativity and innovation, our passion.
So education must be the bridge between the present and future, the old and the new. But we must also build an enduring platform. By that I mean a new way of thinking about the global economy—the “new ©Entreployability the way forward.
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This is helping an individual to develop their ‘©Entreployability assets’ which comprise of their knowledge (i.e. what they know), skills (what they do with what they know) and attitudes (how they do it).
To help them keep busy or at work; engaging their skills and attentions to employ themselves independently and maintain work.
To help them organise and manages their own business, contracts or employability.
To help them be available to be hired, provide them with a safe platform to encourage them to supply soft or hard skill for solving problems or being of service for which they will be paid by another party.
Making sure that the skill they have can be updated to help support them firstly, their family and community and economy.