Reflections on chat2lrn: The Business/Education gap.
My participation in #chat2lrn has been limited but I wanted to provide my first reflection on the experience, starting with the most recent discussion about Business and Education.
Having operated in both environments, I think I’m safe in saying that these two worlds rarely seem to meet. Education has a role to prepare learners for the world of work, and many institutions do make some efforts to find out what business wants of their grads.
So, here’s a summary and reflection on this ongoing issue.
The issue of skill gaps (Q1) is pretty huge, from my perspective. I think the commentary below kind of touches on the gaps in a number of areas. Suffice it to say that until Academia stops playing in a walled garden, and when Business takes a long look at what they are getting, this gap is going to persist and is likely to become a chasm. I did see a number of small solutions proposed but both sides of the equation seem to avoid taking the long view of working closer together.
Universities and Colleges have a key role in preparation of students for the world of work (Q2), but I wonder if they really take that role seriously. They should be a real bridge between formal (K-12) and informal (PD) states, and focus just as tightly on soft skills as they do the hard ones. I think thy also have a vital role in guiding the transition of responsibility for learning as those exiting K-12 need to start accepting that responsibility. “You didn’t teach me” needs to become, “I failed I learn”.
One thing that stands out as a gap is whether or not Education institutions do a good enough job of helping students determine whether or not they’re in the right stream. Universities are replete with examples of students crashing and burning hard in programs they were unsuited for. Why not allow the “safe-fail” approach? It can become an expensive and demoralizing experience to fail out of a program or even realize you’re totally in the wrong place. Worse still is the student who manages to
scrape through a tough program, only to find they’re not employable in the field? Surely Higher Ed can do a better job of guidance?
Organizations have to get a better understanding (Q3) of what makes up these higher ed programs, but also to manage expectations of new grads. Again, the concept of “safe-fail” needs to be in play here. They also need to be actively engaging schools and sharing the requirements they foresee down the road and allow students to make the necessary academic
adjustments. They need to be relating the kinds of problems and challenges new hires will face when they hit the workforce. On a more blunt note, it would be nice if new grads weren’t potentially facing 1-2 years of “shit tasks” just to rack up “work experience. I’m not suggesting you make a new accounting grad your VP of Finance, but the usual pattern of forcing them into situations where they don’t get to put academic knowledge into immediate practice seems kinda wasteful, no?
Q4 raised a point I’ve considered for a long time, that of industry currency among educators. Interestingly, this question seemed to generate the most discussion. For context, I will limit my comments to the Higher Education sector. There are a lot of genuinely smart people in HE and they work hard to stay current and familiar with industry trends. By the same token, they have colleagues who have not set foot outside of academia for a considerable period of time, and for whom teaching has become a McJob, rather than a calling. This issue is illustrated well in Ontario, where College instructors do not have the same academic or research requirements as University faculty. In their collective defence, however, the marking, prep, and administrative overhead make it a challenge for full-time faculty, and that means contract/associate/part-time faculty have an advantage when it comes to availability for industry currency.
I like the idea of ensuring ongoing industry and there are some really creative solutions:
We could consider something like a reverse co-op for faculty. Take a semester every year or so to get immersed in the industry. Alternatively, you could engage new faculty on contracts of not more than 3yrs. That et they are fresh with what’s going on, but not completely removed when they go back. Think about the bridging opportunities there!
There almost needs to be an educational “awakening” in both sectors. Business needs to harness the strengths of the education system (academic rigor, research, reporting, results, etc.), and Academia needs to stop teaching in walled gardens, and to stop being “repositories of dead knowledge”. Colleges are better at it than most aspects of University education, but it’s still not quite reflective of the challenges industry faces.
I know it may seem like I’m picking on Higher Ed, but, Industry has a role to play in this change as well.
Finally. Im not convinced tbat the “current economic situation” (Q5) exacerbates this problem. Even when times are good, there’s gaps needing to be addressed. Heck, I know that even in my days in the military, I could finish a course, well trained and eager, only to hear “forget what you learned on course, son, this is how we do it in This Regiment”. What I have observed is that any time things get tight economically, people head back to school. But thatbegs tbe question – to me, anyway – what strategic guidance are tbese folks getting?Are they really able to take the right programs to position them correctly for the recovered economy?
Harold Jarche says, “work is the learning, and the learning is the work”. It sure would be nice if that’s what Education and Business were collectively aiming for, so the transition between the two becomes seamless.