What is Needed to Learn Skills

Some recent trends and highlights.

  • Explosive growth in online learning platforms. The market will increase from $107 Billion in 2015 to $325 Billion in 2025. Skills Based Approach is well suited for a digital classroom.
  • (Higher) Skills Gap for jobs requiring a college degree. Employers say students do not have the required skills. According to a Gallup survey: companies 33% disagree and 34% are neutral to the statement higher education graduates have the skills my ‘business needs’.
  • (Middle) Skills Gap for jobs requiring less than a college degree. According to the National Skills Coalition’s analysis of BLS 2015 data, “middle-skill jobs account for 53% of United States’ labor market, but only 43% of the country’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level”.
  • New programs to build skills more effectively and efficiently. There are: extended education programs where schools are aligned with companies (like P-Tech); boot camps (such as coding camps); traditional and new-age apprenticeships; micro-credentials and nano-degrees; and direct paths to certifications.
  • Competency based learning programs. Many higher education institutions are transitioning from degrees based on credit hours to competencies.
  • Progress with Common Core and NGSS standards in K-12. Learning standards create transparency and anchor learning expectations. Most states have adopted Common Core; some have replaced them with their own variant. Regardless, states are adopting learning standards based on foundation skills.
  • Gamification – learning by applying skills- is more common in classrooms and offices alike. It had a market value of $2 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $20.9 billion in 2026.
  • Badging. Students and professionals are using digital badges to validate their skills.

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Where Superintendents Stand on Key Issues

Where Superintendents Stand on Key Issues.png

I was excited to read Gallup’s national survey of superintendents because I have respect for the people behind the position and am keenly interested in how they are aligned on key issues in K-12 education. Most superintendents are highly educated and have decades of experience in education. Here are some insights from this Gallup report:

Like in higher education, high schools are increasingly playing an active role in ‘workforce development’. A primary goal remains preparing students for higher education: two and four year degrees. Although there is a recognition of alternatives: apprenticeships, boot camps, microcredentials, and training programs. According to the survey, thirty-five percent of school districts are partnering with employers who ‘recruit students directly out of high school into full-time jobs’ and seventy-three percent of school districts are ‘partnering with area businesses or institutions to help promote career and vocational training’.

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Workforce Strategy Focuses on Skills

Workforce Strategy Focuses on Skills

The World Economic Forum released their 2018 Future of Jobs report. It is a survey of business executives representing many of the multinational companies around the world to get a pulse on their workforce strategies for the upcoming period 2018 to 2022. An overarching theme of the report is how technology – particularly ubiquitous high-speed internet, AI, adoption of big data analytics, and cloud technology – is pervasive and impacting every facet of a company’s workforce strategy; according to the report, there are “complex feedback loops between new technology, jobs, and skills”…

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How Long Does it Take to Learn a Skill

A Skills Culture is about committing to learn and apply skills properly. As I rally practitioners and learners around this mindset, important questions someone might ask are: How long does it take to learn a skill? How long is the commitment? These are good questions for someone who is expected to spend time and resources towards learning a skill.

Before getting into the details, it is worth defining the commitment – a central premise behind Skills Culture:

You commit to learning a skill each step of the way. This could be on a project or even a task level. You might learn a skill for your own personal needs or wants, what’s needed for a project or job, or what’s needed for a career. Regardless, you do not have to become a master of the skill. (If it is not required learning) pivot into learning other skills if you are unsuccessful or do not want to continue.

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Learning Label and Standards

A learning label is a concise, uniform display to represent learning expectations. It is portable and takes only a small section on the page, but is interactive with content appearing in layers (initiated through mouse-overs and clicks). The succinctness and readability for all parties (from a child to an adult) differentiates the technology from anything else in the marketplace. Furthermore, the label provides all the information needed to make a ROI decision to complete a task or project.

Fairly early in the design process, I found a place for learning standards on the labels. They anchor the learning expectations. In fact, integrating standards is clearly stated on the patent application I filed two years ago. The functionality is in making the learning standards easy to find and assign through the administrative interface and showing them on the labels themselves.

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Skills Culture is a Growth Mindset

Most people believe they can learn a skill if they put in the necessary time and effort (according to a survey in A Skills Based Approach to Developing a Career). And this is apparent in everyday life; people are willing to give learning a skill a try.

One example is learning physical skills in sports. Players are willing to build their skills in practice for their own growth and that of the team. Some improve marginally, others improve immensely; some play just for the season, others for the rest of their lives. Regardless, over a specified period, all players commit to learning skills.

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Communicate Skills in Learning

Skills are a language for learning. We talk about skills: in education and higher education (though I think we should be doing it much more), as we think about career planning, to summarize professional experiences, and in employers’ forecasts of future demand.

I think it makes sense to bridge communication across these functions with skills, perhaps with the Skills Based Approach methodology. Furthermore, I think we should concentrate on defining learning with skills – the verb of knowledge. Here are some significant applications using skills:

(This week) LinkedIn came out with a publication saying: “members can add over 50,000 skills to their profiles…”. Skills have a focal point on a profile, where connections can endorse each skill. One new useful feature with skills is, as you apply to a job, the system immediately calculates and make suggestions on how your skill set stacks up to other applicants.

O-Net has built a comprehensive database for education and career planning where skills have a significant role. What is great about the platform is all the context; in fact, it feeds a countless number of applications across the US as it is free to access and use.

Monster has a prominent place on their online resume for skills. Employers use a search mechanism called Power Resume®, which uses various semantics (including a skill set) to derive a ranked list of candidates with links to their resume.

Common Core is largely based on applying standards to foundational skills, like mathematics, reading comprehension, written communication, science, etc. I know because I have built the standards seamlessly into the administrative and user interface of Skills Label.

There is little to no argument of the definition of a skill, whether you are viewing it in LinkedIn, O-Net, a personal website or resume, or a publication of top in demand skills. I think we should define learning in skills and their competencies, underlying methods and applications, and standards. This is precisely what Skills Label does.