Education and employment

Rather worrying to read a recent post from the CIPD, pointing out the great discrepancy between what people have studied recently and the jobs they get (or don’t get). Significant enough to get other people quoting it. These facts might reasonably lead one to the conclusion that we ought to have:

  1. effective personal development planning as the norm, including good employment-oriented “information, advice and guidance”, more reliably joined to educational opportunities, and including clear advice on what is not usually “learned”, but more often are aspects of personal style and values;
  2. more transparent connections between the actual skills and competence in demand from employers, and the intended learning outcomes of courses that purport to prepare people for employment;
  3. far more widespread, transparent and effective systems for labour market matching between job-seekers and openings, taking into account what really makes the difference between “just a job” and genuine employee engagement, satisfaction and development.

The learning technology we support and promote needs to take that into account as well. Great technology for learning tools or learning design, great open learning resources on ever-so-well managed repositories, are only really valuable when truly suitable individuals take learning opportunities both that fit them, and that do what can be done to prepare them for whatever can be reliably predicted about their future occupations. I don’t think we are clueless about the technology that supports the latter objectives, but I’d say it is harder to do it well.

Perhaps it is a question of balance. If the PDP, the IAG, the skills development, tracking and matching were done relatively well, it would be a good reason to invest more in the tools, the resources, and the methods, which are perhaps not so challenging in principle, and easier to show supposed benefits from, until confronted with the stark reminders mentioned at the beginning.

2 thoughts on “Education and employment

  1. I agree with this sentiment to some extent. I also didn’t expect much of any direct connection when I was a student. I like studying economics but I really don’t see the value in many economics students actually being practicing economists. I figured I was getting a education that would allow me to learn and adapt throughout my life – the old fashioned idea of liberal arts education. I think that is great for many people.

    But more people seem to want to finish school with skills (using college as a technical school but that they can see as superior to technical schools). And I think the market for these types of customer/students probably exceeds that wanting to be educated in a broad, and not necessarily directly applicable sense.

    I also believe that even with a liberal arts education it makes sense to make it relevant. To participate in modern society without an understanding of science and technology is very limiting.

  2. John, thanks for this comment.

    To update this a little, what seems to be a current concern is how to create a university-level course from a vocational basis. What do you add? Is it, as you suggest, the “liberal arts” dimension, or the scientific and technical background that should be common to arts students? Do you include all the practical skills that are normally assessed on the job in vocational training? Are people looking for more, or different?

    Answer these questions in a convincing way, and that will open up a great educational potential.

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