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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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Love what you do

Here’s Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, delivering his Stanford Commencement speech.  One of the ideas that provides inspiration, is Steve’s belief that you must “love what you do”.

“…sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick, don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love, and that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied, is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know it when you find it. And like any great relationship it just get’s better and better, as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.”

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Welcoming the age of e-learning

Academic Dale Spender has turned her attention from feminism and towards “new learning” and how education in the 21st century must adjust to the digital revolution.

Computers have changed the way we learn. The getting of wisdom is no longer a linear process, but a journey where information is forever transforming and where learning is a “trip” from one Web site to another.

The “survival skills of the past” – those of order, systematic processes and reliance on memory – are gone. While today’s parents learned by memorising information for exams, today’s students need a completely different skill set.

“Today’s students,” Spender argues, “need an education that encourages them to be independent, innovative and self-reliant — able to generate their own work and income.”

Digital technologies are enabling us to do creative things with information. With blogs and wikis, everyone can communicate. With RSS feeds, everyone can read about it. MySpace and FaceBook help us to connect with the world. Flickr helps to sort, store and share your snaps, while YouTube lets you show off your movie making talents. Tagging sites like Del.ici.ous enable us to share our favourite Web pages.

And as Spender points out, “When we set out to find a solution, it is not the right answers that we need to remember, but the right questions that we need to ask.”

More than 80 percent of Australians are in the information-making business creating something in the workplace that you can’t drop on your foot.

So we need to recognise that the skills that we developed aren’t going to be the same skills that the next generation of workers needs to survive and flourish in the digital age.

But how do we nurture those skills so that our next generation of workers can succeed?

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