The CandEs Shop Talk Podcast welcomes Nick Wyman, a workforce development and skills expert, author, speaker, and CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation (IWSI America). Listen in on how improving candidate experience impacts recruiting and the business bottom line.
Pods need not always be about physical space
By Nicholas Wyman.
Mention heutagogy, and there will be blank stares. It’s an approach that celebrates self-directed lifelong learning skills and is a good fit for workplaces. The term was coined some two decades ago.
It’s not necessarily a solo activity, either. Learning hooks into social and emotional domains and is a skill one needs to keep sharp and finesse.
The World Bank has been on about lifelong learning’s crucial role for the global knowledge economy for 25 years. It’s become increasingly essential for creating and retaining knowledge to survive in our 21st-century globalized world.
Heutagogy highlights learners as independent, but more so interdependent. Researcher Linda Orwin talks about it building each person’s capability so they know how to learn, use creativity to apply their skills in novel and familiar situations, believe they’ve got the skills to tackle future challenges, and work well with others.
It approaches learning on two levels: acquiring knowledge and skills or competencies as well as deeper learning driven by the learner’s needs and motivation. As one of the early writers in this space says, heutagogy is about the questions that the learning experience raises rather than just providing answers.
So, what’s the focus of that learning?
Orwin, whose table comparing pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy continues to do the rounds online, explains: “[They] can go beyond problem solving by enabling pro-activity. Learners use their own and others’ experiences and internal processes such as reflection, environmental scanning, experience, interaction with others and proactive as well as problem-solving behaviours.”
Aren’t these fundamental skills needed for work?
Heutagogy can manifest in the workplace through the form of learning pods — yes, styled on those springing up across the nation due to pandemic-induced school shutdowns. Usually, three to 10 students gather in-person in one of their homes or some other learning space with a tutor/teacher to guide their learning. Pods offer learners social and emotional support they get from learning with their peers.
Why should school-age kids have all the fun?
Reframing workplaces as “sites of learning” and “communities of practices” means the hard slog of just a job takes on quite a different perspective. In these heutagogical learning pods, supervisors and managers are problem-solvers, trouble shooters and general consultants. Workers are neither passive nor dependent on the boss. Instead, as learners, they build competence and independence in their roles. No, it’s not about innovations in individual work pods that COVID-19 has prompted.
In the workplace, such pods can spring up based on specific projects, problems, tasks, even learning programs. They can be in-person or online, so they’re technology agnostic. Staff don’t have to be “in the pod” for their full workday — they can move fluidly from different pods as their work needs change throughout the day, for instance. The workplace makes that call.
Learning pods aren’t just a group of people collaborating, but one where everyone embraces and upskills with a focus on a particular project/problem. A facilitator (team leader or manager) mentors pod members to develop and refine the skills Orwin mentions above. That’s an important point about the facilitator: Staff need modelling, guiding and training on how to become self-directed learners. That means structure — organizational protocols and processes — is needed, so staff know what to do and how to do it.
Otherwise, the staff will go back to their old ways. That’s much like schoolteachers who work in innovative learning environments with movable furniture and flexible floor plans. Without training, they stick to their comfort zone of traditional practices. Consider integrating the training on how to work within a pod actually within a learning pod — learning while doing, if you like.
To use an example, if staff need to tackle a unit of e-learning, why sit them at their own computers in silence to self-pace through the standard digital textbook sprinkled with the occasional video link? Help them bring that learning process to life by encouraging them to bounce their knowledge off each other — actively using it, talking about it, making it their own so that knowledge sticks. Bring a mobile learning app into play as well with online quizzes for spaced learning (which beats the recognized phenomenon known as the “Forgetting Curve”) plus a leader board to inject a bit of competition.
Learning pods are part of a teaching movement called “Genius Hour” (Google sparked this so its engineers could spend 20% of their time on passion projects), professional development, a tribe of learners and good ol’ just getting down to do the work. There’s a lot of promise there as a good fit with the future of work, wherever it might be.
Nicholas Wyman is a future work expert, author, speaker and president of IWSI America (Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation).
Jobs without people. People without jobs. There’s a mismatch between the skills people have and the skills companies need.
Back in February of this year, ManpowerGroup reported US talent shortages were at a 10-year high, with more than two-thirds of employers struggling to fill positions. That situation is unlikely to have eased during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, from the employee’s perspective, traditional paths to acquiring professional skills are losing their luster. Many Americans are changing or canceling their education plans due to COVID-19, according to an ongoing longitudinal survey by Strada Education Network, and just one in three college students say their institutions are “very good” or “excellent” at linking education to a meaningful career. Less than 20 percent of college students feel their education will be worth the cost, according to the survey. Clearly, there’s not a lot of confidence in higher education’s ability to help close the skills gap.
What are employers to do?
The Skills Gap Equals Unprecedented Opportunity
The students who are reconsidering college’s efficacy are actually already showcasing critical skills for future workers: They’re embracing the necessity of pivoting and upskilling through continuous training.
The way we work and the types of jobs we hold are transforming under the influence of globalization, economic change, and technological advances. Astute employers realize that navigating the evolving economic landscape will require building pipelines of workers with 21st-century skills, and they are looking beyond conventional college grads to recruit the talent they need.
Along the same lines, local and state governments are investing in programs and policies to expand career pathways. For example, the American Association of Community Colleges and the Department of Labor are partnering to create a revamped network of apprenticeship opportunities over the next few years.
Targeted career and technical education (CTE) and apprenticeships offer viable paths forward as companies try to close skills gaps while recovering from the economic effects of COVID-19. These programs create a more seamless match between the skills employers need and the skills the workforce is actually developing.
Apprenticeships are a uniquely adaptable model of skill development, and they’re not just relevant to the trades. Modern apprenticeships allow employers to connect with students, recent graduates, military veterans, and workers looking for a fresh start, and then mold these candidates into the specific kinds of talent they need.
Businesses with apprenticeship programs often report higher levels of workforce productivity, innovation, and employee retention, according to “It’s Time: Using Modern Apprenticeships to Reskill America,” a report I released with my company, IWSI America. Furthermore, those who become apprentices say they have better employment options upon completing their programs.
Modern Apprenticeship Demystified
A modern apprenticeship is a work-based training program that prepares individuals of any age to meet sophisticated talent needs. They’re available in a vast range of 21st-century industries and occupations, including cybersecurity, healthcare, data analytics, hospitality management, green sciences, engineering, and advanced manufacturing.
These apprenticeships are customized and supervised. They offer paid on-the-job training at reduced or no cost, as well as wages that increase in step with skills gained during training. These programs range in length depending on the employer and industry. Detailed, work-based training components are determined by the employer or industry sponsors and apprentices.
One-size-fits-all isn’t the right approach to creating a modern apprenticeship program. They’re all about customization. However, a few fundamental steps are common to getting any modern apprenticeship program off the ground:
- Work out which occupation you’re looking to create an apprenticeship in (the Office of Apprenticeship has a handy list of officially recognized occupations).
- Find your internal project team, which should include staff from direct service, middle management, and leadership. Together, they’ll develop and roll out the program.
- Identify external partners like community colleges, high schools, civic and nonprofit organizations, state apprenticeship organizations, and even apprenticeship intermediaries if you prefer to go down that route.
- Recruit mentors and coaches you can count on to check in with apprentices.
- Be clear about the qualifications and core competencies you want your apprentices to develop. Be reasonable.
- Access or create relevant curricula to drive on-the-job training goals, which will become your performance measures.
- Figure out your training schedules and wage scales.
- Craft your marketing and recruitment strategies.
- Establish a plan for monitoring, evaluating, and tweaking your process based on feedback and outcomes.
If you want to ensure your apprenticed staff earn nationally recognized industry credentials upon completion, you will need to register the apprenticeship program with the Department of Labor. Support is also available from organizations such as the Urban Institute, which can assist employers in selecting occupations and identifying competencies for occupational proficiency.
You’ve heard the mantra, “Don’t waste a good crisis.” The pandemic is an unprecedented moment for us to reimagine how we can reshape America’s economy for the benefit of all. Modern apprenticeships and CTE can help us close even the most pernicious and persistent skills gaps.
Kentucky was coming off historic lows in unemployment, hovering around 4%, when the pandemic struck, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Record high unemployment sent that figure surging to 16.6% in April; then it normalized to just 4.3% (that same as 82,714 jobless).
Then, when COVID-19 rose again as of August 27, the Bluegrass spiked again approaching 48,000 cases. As we await this month’s unemployment data with cautious optimism, we’ve got our eyes on an action plan for this state with a historic and robust record in apprenticeship. It’s got a big claim to FAME in this regard – more about that below.
Navigating COVID-19 is challenging for private and public sector employers globally as they strategize and marshal resources to stabilize business operations and service delivery. Few might consider the pandemic as offering employers opportunities to rethink and re-imagine their ideal future workforce – taking a long-range perspective. Apprenticeship holds a lot of promise, even in uncertain pandemic times. And, you might be surprised to learn Kentucky businesses are still hiring apprentices during the crisis as hard data support.
Tech training is crucial
Whatever the role, training in digital technology is a must to revamp, adapt and update skills. New technology is eliminating many jobs that demand only repetitive tasks while creating jobs that involve training, managing and developing that new tech. That’s why people who can work with tech are in high demand.
Right now, though, many Kentucky employers simply want to maintain their workforces. Poor cash flow and reserves to pay workers make that tricky. If employers can avoid mass layoffs to keep employees on the payroll, this is reliable insurance for sustainability.
If Kentucky businesses need to shut down or shrink hours of operations again, and working from home isn’t feasible, employers should aim to fill staff members’ time with skills development, both technical and soft. Boost participation by offering incentives. Handing staff learning and development opportunities is a powerful tool for engaging and retaining them. It’s a cost-saving measure in the long-run that lifts morale.
Modern workers need to be tinkerers and problem-solvers. They must know how to ask questions, when and how to get help, how to work in teams and how to communicate effectively with machines, their coworkers and superiors, too. The pandemic demands they be flexible, adapt, and continuously learn new skills.
Employers and HR managers who take a long-range view will pull out all stops to help current, and future staff develop these skills. Organizations with remote workers should explore massive open online courses (MOOCs), Khan Academy, Udemy, Skillshare or Google Digital Garage for free online classes, some of which offer certification.
Establish or expand apprenticeships to build for the future
One lasting impact of the pandemic could be changed expectations for government’s role in the economy. All levels of governments will rethink the scope of services, particularly for disease prevention and maintaining social infrastructure. As services expand, training and employing more people for public sector jobs will be needed.
Agencies should consider investing in their own and Kentucky’s future by continuing to fund and sponsor apprenticeships throughout these challenging times. Serving an apprenticeship is a proven way to skill up and prepare for a public sector career in health care, public safety, infrastructure, cybersecurity, education, green sciences or law enforcement, for example. Now is the time to invest in individuals to strategically plan for workforce needs as localities and the economy recover.
Consider the example of Kentucky FAME. The Northern Kentucky FAME chapter (NKY FAME) became a non-profit in October 2015 and is now entering its fifth straight year of mentoring apprentices. (FAME stands for the Kentucky Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education, by the way.) In response to an expanded initiative in Kentucky to boost the number of registered apprenticeship programs across the state, the NKY FAME chapter unanimously decided to register its apprenticeship program with the Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development, Office of Employer and Apprenticeship Services in December last year.
The chapter is the first registered FAME program in the Commonwealth and the second in the country. Eleven apprentices were registered at the start, and now, less than a year later, 22 have joined their ranks, with more joining this month.
Registered apprenticeship continues to be on the rise and gaining popularity in Kentucky, and across the United States. Registered apprenticeships numbers have more than doubled in Kentucky in recent years. Companies such as the Northern Kentucky FAME chapter have embraced registered apprenticeship to fill the regional demand for skilled labor in advanced manufacturing.
They’ve also used it to:
• Leverage government subsidies for recruiting and technician sponsorship
• Offer economic security for the regional workforce; and
• Strengthen individual businesses through skill development, employee engagement, and decreased turnover.
FAME is one example of Kentucky’s diverse apprenticeships, which have been on the books since the 1930s. Over 300 diverse businesses offer paid apprenticeships throughout the state to more than 4,000 apprentices, and there are more than 3,000 apprenticed occupations across the country. About 16,000 individuals have taken part in an apprenticeship in Kentucky since the US Department of Labor started tracking apprenticeship data in 2007. You might have heard of TRACK – Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky.
Many other employers in Kentucky also find that apprenticeship programs increase employee loyalty, engagement and productivity for apprentices and their mentors. And some organizations are successfully using apprenticeships to diversify their workforce, with positive effects for the employer and the community. Diversity creates a built-in focus group, offering rich insights into customer service and product development.
Now is the right time to start an apprenticeship program. The Federal Government recently set aside millions of dollars in grants for such initiatives through the US Department of Labor’s Closing the Skills Gap program. The University of Louisville notched $4 million for its students under this program. Funds are there for the asking for local and state governments, as well as private employers and non-profits.
The coming weeks and months could be the best window of opportunity this decade to recruit talented people through apprenticeships. It’s also a prime opportunity for organizations to integrate skills-building and professional development initiatives to ensure they have a more robust, better-prepared workforce.
Nicholas Wyman, MBA, is a future work expert and speaker, the president of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation America, and the author of Job U. Wyman has studied at Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government, and he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship. He is on Linkedln.
Learning pods are increasing in popularity for school students keen to pace through their online learning during the stop-and-go life that the pandemic induces. But, are adults in college or the workforce missing out on these ‘communities of practice’?
These communities bring a tribe of learners to tackle the content collectively, to share the learning process. It’s a network of people helping each other learn because they have a shared domain of interest. They’re about dynamic, three-dimensional learning and can include mentors or facilitators, too. Communities of practice aren’t a new concept, but they’ve proven a great way to make knowledge stick.
The missing link: digital transformation
Many colleges across the country shifting to entirely virtual delivery without lowering tuition fees – for who knows how long? The question some ask is how effective these non-face-to-face ‘communities of practice’ might be. Just transferring lectures and tutorials from in-person to remote, maybe adding online fora, does not build a community of learners. That’s not a digital transformation of e-learning. Online learning can gut the experience of learning on campus. It’s one prompt to ask whether college is worth the investment at this time.
There’s a more prominent notion here: The traditional classroom-centered college model is likely facing permanent disruption.
I’m noticing this as my teenage daughter considers if college is a worthwhile option for her. Indeed, the impact of COVID-19 has challenged the idea of ‘business as usual’. Along with – I suspect – many other students and parents, we’re taking a closer look at the costs and benefits of higher education.
Even before the pandemic, the economic realities of paying for college were stark. Enormous rates of student debt combined with less-than-ideal employment outcomes for graduates have been concerned for a while, and those concerns are only growing as the economy trembles. A recent survey found 93% of college and graduate students were uncertain about how they’ll continue to pay for their education.
What’s the ROI on a college degree?
So, what is the value of a bachelor’s degree in today’s job market? How prepared are graduates for employment so they can start earning stable wages and unshackle themselves of debt?
Employers often report that applied experience and demonstrable skills are what they need in candidates. A study by Gallup-Lumina found 34% of employers said they didn’t feel colleges were graduating students with the necessary competencies for hire. About seven in 10 employers said they’d hire based on applied skills and experience over whether or not the candidate held a degree. Even entrepreneur Elon Musk is questioning the value of degrees.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 5% of college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed, and 10% were underemployed. In just the past 10 weeks, more than 40 million unemployment claims have been filed—the equivalent of a quarter of the US population.
Between 1989 and 2016, the average annual cost of college more than doubled. This is growing at a rate eight times faster than wages in the same period. It’s no wonder, then, the number of students graduating with more than $50,000 in debt has also grown epically. That’s 8.5 times since 1992.
Is a four-year college degree still the gold standard for measuring job and career preparedness? I think it’s time to embrace other proven pathways to career success. Ones where robust learning pods and communities of practice are built-in and continue to be as powerful as ever.
So, if you or someone you know in the US is on a path to college, my recommendation is simple: do your due diligence. Get all the information you can and explore alternatives before you sign that promissory note on loan. And make sure there will be a learning pod or community of practice to help you learn so you can apply your knowledge.
Spend time exploring
Sure, the economy is in jitters, but future careers don’t have to be. There are a multitude of career pathways that don’t need an expensive bachelor’s degree. These pathways are more affordable, even free. Start looking at career and technical colleges. Importantly, you’ll learn with others – their communities of practice are baked in – because of the practical components.
An associate’s degree or trade-specific certification is exponentially cheaper than a bachelor’s degree and can see you working and earning. And in many cases, out-earning bachelor’s degree-holding peers in just two years. It can also serve as a springboard to a four-year degree later down the line. Better yet, a growing number of states are making their community colleges tuition-free.
Learn about jobs in one of the five industries people will always need education, health, shelter, energy, entertainment, and food. You can get your foot in the door on many of these jobs through two-year programs, apprenticeships, and other on-the-job learning opportunities. To broaden your scope, look at the industries that serve these big five industries listed above: for example, transportation serves the food industry, and telecommunications serves entertainment.
Consider modern apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships are career pathways that see you earn while you learn. One of the best aspects is people won’t be noosed to massive college debt. You’re not left to your own devices to learn (and I mean that electronically, too). You’ll at least have a mentor or supervisor, and often will be among a group of apprentices tackling the same content.
Workers that complete apprenticeship programs earn $300,000 more throughout their careers than high school graduates.
Apprenticeships are a proven way to set you on a clear path to employment and long-term career success—in practically any industry.
Start building skills, tuition-free
There is nothing stopping you from getting career and employment skills right away, starting today. Online courses allow anyone to reboot, boost, or enhance their skill set—cheaply, quickly, anytime, anywhere. Online learning makes it convenient and cost-effective to learn something practical and new from home. Many colleges and universities offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) that are available to everyone, everywhere on the planet.
Find out what skills you’ll need for your chosen career path, including technical skills, people skills, and personal attributes. Get feedback from your friends and family to identify gaps in your knowledge and experience. What do you need to work on? Is there an online course you can do to bridge the gap?
But, be mindful many of us enroll for such courses, free or paid, and never rock up much online. The knowledge is out there, ready for you to make it your own, but without your tribe of learners, you may well be struggling to stick with it.
Above all, keep learning, no matter what stage of life or career, and bring your own tribe or lobby your education provider to help you set up one. Think of it as insurance to nudge you into the success zone.
Article by By Nicholas Wyman.