Towards a More Dynamic Skills Strategy
About 30 % of the skills needed only three years ago are already irrelevant today. The Covid pandemic has highlighted this lack of skills in many seeking employment today because their jobs were suddenly gone.
Governments are scrambling to offer free online courses to many of these unemployed. Governor Cuomo has just announced the city offering of these courses to many New Yorkers who are looking for employment.
What does this mean for technical and vocational schools? While there are essential skills that institutions must include in their curriculum, there should also be a plan to allow for the workplace's changing skills needs.
How do you go about this?
Any institution that aspires to be successful must place research as an essential component of their organization. It should actively involve and support individual professors to push their knowledge not just of their subject matter per se but its relevant application in the workplace.
It must be an organizational planned initiative that supports the institution's mission and goals proactively. It must get budgetary support and recognition within the institution. Teachers who are at the forefront of this research must receive incentives.
2. Teachers' immersion in the workplace.
Sometimes, this isn't easy to do because many teachers have hardly any time to spare with all the subjects they have to prepare for and the correction of tests, papers, and other evaluations. Often, they have to do these things at night or on the weekends, leaving them little time for their concerns.
Other institutions limit their teachers to one preparation and only a few hours of classroom work to give them time to research and develop partnerships with the workplace. However, this load reduction is hardly the case in most institutions as this requires hiring more teachers than most institutions can scarcely afford.
More creative teachers can give some of the research work to students who will learn from this assignment. Often, students have more contacts than the teachers themselves through their parents and friends in the workplace.
3. Institutional partnership with industry
Some heads of institutions are very active in their communities and are very connected with the decision-makers in the workplace, giving them the advantage of knowing what the industry requirements are and how they expect the institutions' graduates to do well. In the absence of this, teachers have to develop the linkages needed to make their courses more relevant.
Some industry leaders develop relationships with the institutions because they would want to get highly trained personnel. Also, they would like their staff to get some advanced training in the institution.
4. Involve workplace professionals in student learning
How do you go about involving industry professionals in your institution. Some colleges hire business and industry professionals to teach part-time in their institutions to inform students of actual workplace situations. They are more informed of what is current in the industry and can assist students in what to expect in the workplace.
Other institutions have what they call advisory bodies for their various courses, and these are leaders in the field. They often review the offerings and give ideas on how better to enhance student learning in these multiple areas.
5. Give students ample experience in the workplace.
Institutions can incorporate apprenticeships into their courses. These are very effective ways of learning for students. In some cases, the students get a small allowance from the company for doing an apprenticeship.
Sometimes, the government supports this program to improve the skills of graduates. In other cases, the students have to apply and pay the company for this privilege to learn with them.
There are also different, less expensive ways of immersing students in the workplace. Immersion in the various companies can also help students see the actual workplace, the real job, the equipment used, and the workers' demands and challenges. This kind of immersion is easy to arrange. Teachers can also set for students to taste how it is to work in the actual job.
More companies now have a greater sense of their social responsibility to be open to this immersive experience for students. Others are actively recruiting personnel, so this is an excellent start to spot students who can potentially fit in their organization.
As usual, when there are interest and commitment to creating a more dynamic skills strategy in the schools, teachers, institutional managers and industry leaders will contribute energy and time to make this happen.