What Once Was, Is Not Now

“Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” – John F. Kennedy

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know there is a somewhat urgent problem with employability skills and the current emerging workforce. From an observational point of view, the skills of communication, accountability, collaboration, punctuality, and critical thinking are missing. Employers are noticing it and it’s costing them in productivity and profits. Before any protestations of “not my kid,” it’s not every iGen/Millennial member, it’s just enough of them for us to take notice and ask ourselves, “How did this happen to most of a generation?”

How Did This Happen?
Can it be resolved, and if so, how? Let’s try address the first question: how did this happen? There are several contributing factors that occurred over a period of about 20 years. Our society has been responding to multiple large-scale events that have resulted in our changing the way we do the day-to-day activities. Some of these events have had positive impacts, and some negative. An example of a positive impact event would be the onset of everyday access to the internet. It has drastically changed the way we do even the most mundane tasks to the most innovative. No one can argue that the internet has changed everything, from the way we do business, to the way we send notes to each other to how to look up information on zebras. A negative impact example would be September 11, or Ted Bundy. Both of these events also changed how we do everything from how we pack for vacation to how we leave the library on a college campus.

What do these and many other mitigating factors have to do with the emerging workforce? Plenty! To start with, if you were a child or young person during any of these, the impact was long lasting. What decisions you made, what you had to consider when doing anything, what kind of parent you became, what kind of teacher you had or even became, what kind of job you sought, what kind of boss you had or became, what security protocols you engaged in and the list goes on.

We ourselves do not miss these soft skills as a whole generation—for sure there are members who do—so why does the generation that follows us, and the next one, lack them? Well, it began with creating a culture of safety and protectionism, which we all agree was necessary. The byproduct of that, however, is a generation that has functioned with those safety walls for their entire lives. So, when they have to venture outside of those walls, they have not developed some of those more crucial soft skills. Our own responses, as well as those of the government, the school system, parenting trends, the launch of social media and the ensuing political climate have all contributed to a generation of children, who as they grow up and enter the workforce, have not faced much adversity or even discomfort on their own. Every adult in their sphere has assisted in making it better, to the point that they did not have to persevere and make it better for themselves. While that made for a happy childhood for the most part, it also made for some gaps.

If we are honest in our reflection, we can probably recall at least one young adult with whom we’ve recently interacted, that left us with our eyes rolling or our jaws open, thinking, “Did that really happen?”

Did she really not know she had to respond to her boss’s email? Did he really think he could show up when he felt like it, instead of when he was scheduled? Now imagine being in a managerial or supervisory capacity and witnessing this regularly, even daily, with incoming employees.

Again, this is not every Millennial or iGen member, but it’s many of them. In fact, it’s too many of them for it to be overlooked and ignored. What’s a workplace to do? On the job training can address the immediate void.  Cooperation with community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools and trade schools can all address the very next population that’s about to enter the workforce. What about the students still in high school? Is this the responsibility of the workplace? No, not alone. It will take teamwork with other organizations.

In very recent years, there has been finger pointing in every direction of whom to blame. Laying blame and shirking responsibility is counterproductive. In the working world we need real, solid and successful solutions.

Now to address the second question, how do we resolve it? Education, business and government have to collaborate and find effective ways to address this very existent issue. Bringing back real training for young people—internships, apprenticeships, bridge programs, real life experiences that help our young people experiment with, occasionally fail and eventually succeed using these precious soft skills. Giving these bright and often hungry young people a chance to build these skills in the workplace without it costing them everything, if they struggle, is imperative today. Schools are doing their part—they really are—they just cannot do it alone. The insurmountable responsibilities schools face today and have for years, make it impossible for them to do it alone. If you ask a teacher, he or she will tell you that they work on those skills every day and yet it’s not transferring to the workplace. There may be some disconnect between what educators believe these skills are and what employers believe these skills are. Better communication is needed here for sure.

If we want to solve this problem—and it is completely solvable—we must, as a society, put value on it and invest in it at multiple levels—at home, at school, and in the workplace. The importance of this solution cannot be carried by just one branch if it is to succeed.

One State’s Approach
One great example of this collaboration between education, government and business is what happened in Rhode Island in 2018. “Prepare Rhode Island” is a program where high school students can explore jobs during the summer or enroll in Career and Technical Education programs (for free) and help young people build career pathways. It has grown into a statewide program, and is a partnership between the education system, the state of Rhode Island and private industry. It offers students a way to acquire, practice and hone skills while also giving them the experiences they need to make career choices.

The Future Looks Bright
Prepare Rhode Island is just one way to provide the next workforce with what it needs to not only succeed, but also lead our country into the next generation. There is much potential here for innovative thinking and design. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work, but careful and purposeful creating can jump start a solution process that could finally check off all of the boxes and fill most, if not all of the voids, while also building up the next generation with solid ideals and necessary experiences. As a society we owe it to ourselves, our future and theirs to innovate and invest.

CuroGens developed the CuroGens Learning Academy because a one-size-fits-all approach no longer applies. We offer a philosophy and technology that promotes careful and purposeful content creation, whether it is for site/field specific training or personalized learning. If you would like to hear more about how CuroGens Learning Academy can make this a reality, contact us at  learnmore@curogens.com for a free solution demo.