The Real Education Revolution

Last week the following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (www.smh.com.au) based on research published by the Centre for Skills Development (www.centreforskills.com.au) where I am a Director. The article was written by Education journalist Ana Patty.

NSW schools are failing to adequately prepare students for employment and are too focused on teaching basic literacy, numeracy and computer skills, according to a paper from the Centre for Skills Development.

The draft white paper suggests students need to develop more sophisticated technology and communication skills at school to find jobs.

The paper, A Real Education Revolution, says teachers need to be equipped with more advanced technology skills.

Co-author Sheryle Moon said it was no longer enough for schools to provide basic computer skills.

“If teachers don’t understand the application of technology – the collaborative environment technology facilitates – and build that into the curriculum, then young Australians will go out into the workforce with an incomplete set of skills,” she said.

Ms Moon is a director of the Centre for Skills Development, a behavioural change management consultancy.

“To harness the energy of teams you need to work in a virtual environment where your staff or team or co-workers are spread across the world in different time zones.

“In a knowledge economy, employers look for people who have the communication capability to interact with team members, clients, to understand issues and solve problems.”

The draft white paper says communication technology is part of the work environment, yet is only being slowly integrated into curriculums, classrooms and training. “This throws the lack of teacher training in multi-disciplinary communication skills into sharp relief,” it says. “In a world saturated by technology, the average classroom is decades behind technologies used in workplaces as standard.”

The centre says relatively few students are involved in public speaking and debating, which help develop communication and analytical skills.

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Impending Teacher Shortage

Australia needs outstanding teachers. Yet the best and brightest chose careers in finance, medicine or law. Many of those who do choose teaching end up leaving the sector within 3-5 years to take up opportunities in other industries.
Australia is on the brink of a teacher crisis that will seriously impede our capacity to educate the next generation of children. According to the Australian Education Union, Australia will be short 40,000 teachers by 2013 .
It is time for change. The first step to attract and retain great teachers is for education leaders to start thinking and behaving less like a bureaucratic institution and more like a private enterprise.
The global financial crisis has handed the education sector a solution on a silver platter. Schools have long run Teacher for a Day programs and looked to industry to provide Teachers in Residence to impart particular skills and knowledge. Right now, there is a pool of impressive white collar professionals – who have lost their jobs, are feeling insecure about their jobs or can’t find work – being presented with a solution for a new vocation where they can demonstrate their skills, share their smarts and guide the next generation of Australians.
There is also a pool of impressive best and brightest graduates who did not find work in their chosen field who could potentially replace our decreasing, and very much needed, generation of teachers.
Many talented Australians think teaching would be a fabulous job, yet many don’t think about it as their number one choice. Now, in an economic environment clouded by uncertainty, the idea of a job that offers security and longevity is much more attractive.
What these young executives don’t realise is that it’s them we need to lead the next generation of students and just because they worked for a big bank or accountancy firm doesn’t mean they can’t use their skills in the teaching world.
During a national road show this year for the Australian Council of Education leaders, delegates brainstormed the ideal qualities of Australian educators of the future.
The characteristics identified closely matched those of an entrepreneur. They included:
1. An engaging communicator
2. High emotional intelligence
3. Academic strength
4. An innovative approach to work
5. A willingness to take risks
6. Performance orientated
7. Commitment to the task at hand and passionate about it
8. Desire to contribute and be part of something bigger
The forum coined this group the edupreneur – the ideal teacher of the future. What’s remarkable is that if you conducted a Myers-Briggs test on all of our redundant professionals looking for work, you’ll find that a significant proportion will hit the mark, at least 7 out of 8 from this list.
If our education system attracted and retained teachers that displayed these qualities, our education system would be the envy of the world. Many corporate organisations believe in hiring for aptitude, inducting new staff comprehensively into an organisation and then providing the on-the-job and situational training to ensure they are successful. Traineeship programs use a similar approach, teaching people as they are employed to deliver the best learning and employability results.
Over 20,800 Australians lost their jobs in the last two months . If we could convert all these out-of-work people, take their skills and experience and apply them to education, Australia’s next generation will be in very good hands.
Great leaders believe it is possible for tomorrow to be better than today, and that they have a role in making that happen. Let’s set change in motion. It starts with only one. That one could be you.

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Generation Y is the most optimistic and positive generation, but the global recession means young people face a serious challenge which could define their generation – youth unemployment.  Boom times meant full employment and good wages but the latest job figures are especially sobering for young Australians.  Currently the youth unemployment rate is two and a half times the national average. And it’s first time job seekers (school leavers and uni graduates) that are most affected. And there’s concern that they will form a generation of unemployable youth even when times pick up.

12 months ago we all believed that this generation of young Australians were in a position to take it or leave it when it came to jobs. The onus was on employers to make teh psychological connection. Young graduates declined jobs because they didn’t liek the vibe, FaceBook was prohibited or there was no decent coffee shop nearby.  

Those days are gone. The Minister for Employment and Participation Mark Arbib last week stunned people by telling Australians teenagers not be so picky about jobs they didn’t think paid enough or weren’t cool enough.  

No matter how we look at the economy right now unemployment is going to get worse. Not as bad as economists predicted six months ago – more like 7.5% by late 2010. However that translates into another 300,000 poeple being unemployed – on top of the current 600,000. So a total on 1 million.   

To quote the Rolling Stones – for Gen Y it might be a case of – you can’t always get what you want but if you try you might just get what you need.

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Have the green shoots taken roots? The news today that job advertisements have stabilised is comforting to employees especially those who lost their jobs over the last 10 months or so. The Job Services Australia contract – established by the Australian government to help both long term unemployed and those people who have significant vocational and/or non-vocational barriers to employment, have in fact been inundated by people who have been unemployed for less than 4 months. This group of people far outweigh in numbers the more marginalised and disadvantaged members of the Australiansociety. They have a Centrelink job seeker id, are receiving benefits and are job ready. The news that the employment market may have turned will be good music to their ears. It will also be good for the Labour Hire and recruitment companies who have seen over half of their revenue and consultant staff disappear.

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Social Networking in an Unemployed World

I’ve been connected to people on Linked in since it’s inception in 2002 and in the beginning it was a net place for nerdy people to promote themselves and stay in touch. Increasingly  if you’re not LinkedIn, you’re left out – of job offers, company start up opportunities, resources knowledge and tips and techniques for just about any problem that exists. In the past few months since the economic downturn I’ve noticed more activity on LinkedIn and in observation I’ve seen the following:

* increased activity by members when they are about to leave an organisation

* increased referrals when there is a concern that organsiations are about to go belly up or the people are about to be retrenched

* necessity overcomes ego in the quest to find a new role.

I’m wondering if social networking sites such as LinkedIn are predictors for organisational health and could act as a barometer for the stock market.

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Making the most of work and family life

The skills learnt by parents as they raise their children – everything from refereeing a fight between two four year olds (conflict resolution) to answering the phone, ironing a shirt and bathing the baby at the same time (multitasking) can help boost work performance and life satisfaction.

In an article with Human Capital Magazine earlier this year, Director of Parent Wellbeing, Jodie Benveniste, says that when it comes to work/life balance, we’ve got our thinking wrong. 

“Work-family balance assumes a scarcity model. It proposes that people have a fixed and limited amount of time and energy.  If work is taking all that time and energy, then family life suffers or vice-versa. But the relationship between work and family is much more dynamic than that.”

Benveniste argues that the concept of work-family balance should be replaced with ‘Work Family Flow’. Instead of working parents trying to ‘balance’ work and family, they should try to optimise work and family.  In other words, make the most of work and family.

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Employers of choice?

These days, many companies call themselves “employers of choice”. 

However, the Australian Human Resources Institute survey: Employer of Choice: A Reality Cheque, found a deep-cynicism about the EOC label that many companies attach to themselves. Over 52 per cent of respondents said they rarely or never took notice of a company’s claims to be an EOC, and 24 per cent had worked for an EOC company that hadn’t lived up to its promises. A further 15 per cent had been penalised for trying to access touted EOC benefits, while 26 per cent claimed to know of co-workers who had experienced similar treatment.

Being able to express what your company stands for is an important part of attracting top performers. The psychological bond is as much emotional as it is rational.  The real race for the White House is between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Like them or loathe them at least you know what they stand for. Like Tony Blair before him, Barack Obama has built his core message around change.  While Sarah Palin’s core message is built around being a ‘hockey mum’, so that Middle America can instantly identify with her and her values.

People relate to a compelling vision, especially if you take the time to ask them about their values and ambitions and show how the two are aligned.  As employers, it is up to us to give our employees work meaning.  It is we who must create the psychological bond between employer and employee.

This psychological bond can be cultivated from the moment a candidate is selected for employment.  One of my clients aims to establish a connection between the candidate and the company at the final interview.  How?  He presents the candidate with a business card with their name on it.  It makes saying ‘no’ much more difficult when an employer is able to demonstrate so much commitment to a candidate and their future career.

Your compelling vision doesn’t need to be sugar coated to attract and retain employees.  Just ensure it is honest.  A few years back, while I was working for a large consulting firm, the global CEO was addressing an internal conference. He was asked by a female manager about promotion opportunities to partner level if she had children and took time out to be with them or asked to work part-time. He replied that he was “supportive of her making those decisions, however promotions would continue to go to those people who worked long hours and were focussed on the company’s success”.

Brutal?  Perhaps.  But it was also honest and demonstrated his core values. Everyone knew how it worked.  And they never had trouble attracting employees who wanted to work hard.

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