By Simone Rennocks, CEO of My Skills Australia
I have a big vision.
I believe to find meaningful work and a strong sense of security is one of the foundations of human happiness. With change comes opportunity, that I believe anyone regardless of their age, gender, background or prior education can learn to thrive though.
We know that the new experience of work has spun traditions on their head. Hybrid working, remote teams and virtual working mean that there is no longer an average workplace environment. The skills we need for work are based on transferable skills that we can build upon and take with us across careers and industries. The way these skills are currently taught in school and in vocational education is under the spotlight. Lockdowns, financial and health crises have only shown us how fragile our society was, or still is. Leaders of tomorrow's companies must be people-centric. Work health and safety obligations now need to include mental health and physical wellbeing, not just risk management and site safety. Corporate social responsibility must consider the needs of the employees, their families and the community as a whole.
The notion that we are regularly discussing the term ‘disengaged’ too is disheartening. Disengaged students, disengaged workers, how did we get to this point? So many of our youth are categorised and shuffled out the door of education well before being prepared for working life. Even adults with years of experience in their chosen profession, like nursing, care sector and teaching, are leaving their jobs in droves. Neither patient, student or caregiver is feeling fulfilled.
Disparities still exist in Australia (and the world) when it comes to equality, access to educational resources and reliable technology. Closer to home than you think. In 2022, there are still High Schools in Western Sydney, middle socio-economic areas, whose students still use textbooks and workbooks rather than the laptops and digital classrooms that are used 20 minutes away. There is a major digital skills crisis across all generations of the current workforce. This means as we currently stand, a sustainable future is still only hoped for, not guaranteed. Rapid technology changes are not inclusive or equally accessible. Yet there is hope. The pandemic has shown us that change is possible. We can change. It has also shown us how connected we all are. Reimagining skills and vocational education are a matter for all of us to collaborate on.
Life skills (rather than calling them skills for work) should be taught from a younger age:
- Team work
- Social responsibility
- Pride in a job well done
- Thinking critically
- Digital Literacy
Work experience programs must be expanded. Internships and extracurricular activities such as volunteering and community projects should be commonplace.
Vocational education should be designed as scenario-based learning. Targeted skills that are delivered in ‘just the right way, just for the right duration, just using the appropriate tech’. The model for career transition pathway learning should be ever evolving. Like a spiral that can be jumped onto and jumped off again when needed. The core skills should be revisited time and time again in response to emerging technologies and societal needs.
Education shouldn’t stop once the learning is complete. Ongoing mentoring and support should be provided. Change management and transition planning between school and work and between career gaps should be a subject taught. Change isn’t always comfortable. The support that a new hire needs in their first 30 days is vital. The mental and emotional challenges of a new role or job must be acknowledged and leaders must be trained in mentoring for change.
Communication skills should be a priority as care industries become such a vital part of our community. Having difficult conversations, managing socially diverse teams and empathy are just as important today as technical skills.
The same level of innovation that is applied in business, must be applied to education. The new experience of work must be people-centric. A leader's role is to hold the space for people in their charge to learn, collaborate and grow. Young workers should be encouraged to mentor older workers. We need to encourage diverse thinking to get the best perspectives possible. Accounts teams need to work through roadblocks they face, not with other accounts team members, but with customer services and vice versa. A company’s values shouldn’t be set by management. Values should be a conversation that is inclusive. Sit and determine your values together with employees. If leaders are required to consult workers on safety issues, why don’t they consult workers on values?
We must foster innovation from within our organisations. Intrapreneurship is one step towards entrepreneurship. Intrapreneurs are self-motivated, proactive and action-oriented people who take initiative to pursue an innovative product or service. Intraprenuership is a system that allows an employee to act like an entrepreneur within a company or organization. Intraprenuerships foster autonomy and independence, while attempting to find the best resolution. It gives employees the freedom to experiment, as well as the potential for growth of both organization and the employee. They are often able to solve problems on their own, and come up with their ideas that lead to process improvements, using their creativity to enhance existing goods and services within the context of the business. To which an intrapreneur is comfortable being uncomfortable while testing ideas until achieving the desired results.
Intrapreneurs are often considered inventors. While inventors come up with new products, intrapreneurs come up with new processes that get that product to market. Another reason for why they are considered similar to inventors is that they are creative and are risk-takers in the sense that they are stepping out of their traditional role within the business. Intrapreneurship helps employees with good ideas to better channel the resources of a corporation to develop more successful products.
No organisation or employee can afford to stand still. The new experience of work requires us to understand change, plan for it, accept it and communicate it well. A strong economy and future careers must be anti-fragile.
We must thrive on change.
How can we create a system of vocational education to support the new experience of work? What does an Anti-fragile education look like?
To be truly ready for today’s job market our model of education must be inventive and robust. Just as it is a leader’s role to hold the space for teams to collaborate, grow, fail and succeed, it is the role of Vocational Education to create a similar space. Our role in the ‘chain of responsibility’ is foundational step for all humanity.
My Skills’ students are voting with their feet. Our learning experience design LXD has made us a leader in vocational education. Our student satisfaction and skill preparedness out shine our competitors. Our results speak for themselves: P&J Wade Pty Ltd trading as My Skills Australia
In order to blaze a new path in vocational education, educators must address, more than ever before, the ‘whole’ process as a dynamic living ecosystem. Anti-fragile education starts with inclusion. The learns voice must be present from the learning pathway, skills assessment, right throughout the design of the content. Learning experience design LXD must be flexible, people-centric and customised.
My Skills Australia is a custodian of the new workplace experience.