Saturday, 30 June 2012

“Fixing” the Skills Problem

Recently I spoke with Professor Leesa Wheelahan ahead of her keynote speech at ALS’ 2012 Symposium next week. Leesa says that governments around the world are concerned with skill – skill development, skill shortages and skills mismatches. But fixing the "skills problem" isn’t a simple matter of fixing training, she argues. She shares some tips:

Encouraging adults to come back to learning
The first thing is to ensure we don’t put a big label on them that says they are deficient. The second thing is that sometimes getting them involved in any sort of learning, doesn’t matter what it is, is the best way to go. I used to work in the adult and community education sector and managed a community centre. We had all sorts of classes, including art and craft classes. What we found is that women would use this class as their first tentative step out of the home and back into learning or work. But first we had to win their trust. At the end of the semester they would come and have a chat and tell us that they had trouble reading the instructions for the craft class. That’s when we’d find a literacy class for them, and it usually worked out really well. This is because they’d learnt that learning can been joyable, and for many this was a big revelation because they had an awful time at school.

Keeping your industry currency
Industry currency is about being active in your industry, being part of the professional body, going to industry conferences (or even organising industry conferences), keeping up with research that has an impact on your industry, and talking to employers. Industry currency is about knowing what’s coming up in your industry, and not just what is happening now.

The complexity of VET education
I did a big project on teaching in vocational education and training a few years ago, and we found out that it’s a lot more complex than in schools or in universities. This is because there is much more diversity among students and in the learning environments. VET teachers have to meet the needs of disadvantaged students and those in the community withoutfoundation skills. They must also meet the needs of those who are already skilled to gain higher level or different skills to support an innovative and flexible economy, young people entering the workforce, older people who want to stay in the workforce, and those already in work and those who are not. They teach in big and small workplaces, in big and small institutions, in prisons, community centres, and in public and private providers. Arguably, this is more challenging than teaching in schools or universities.

To hear more from Leesa and other distinguished experts on the latest developments impacting workforce development, adult learning and skills training, do join us at the ALS 2012 symposium - 5 and 6 July at Resorts World Sentosa!

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