Friday, March 24, 2006

Entering the world of work #1.

TRAIN FOR THE FUTURE – NOT THE PAST (NB. This has been published)
Robert Leslie Fielding

The speed of change in the economy is too fast for some organizations, and too fast for most of our educational programs.

‘The new economy: strong growth in the service sector, increased levels of productivity growth and globalized markets, means that the nature of work is different from the past. The diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICT) has changed the ways firms do business and create value, it has increased the flexibility of capital goods, making capital investment more productive and encouraging firms to substitute capital for labor. This trend contributes to the globalization of markets and has changed the nature of work and has implications for workers’ education and training.’
(Go to for more)

Who will benefit from changes in education and training?

Education and training helps improve employee job performance and the quality of goods and services firms offer. Individuals who take advantage of training get higher wages and increase their chances of promotion. It makes sense to upgrade your skills and change.

If companies don’t get the workers they require, they will:

· Go somewhere else to get them
If companies go abroad for workers, or relocate entirely, those jobs will be lost to the economy forever
· Do without them
So, some companies will do without the right kind of worker with the right kind of skills, some will go out of business because they do not have workers with those skills.
· Have to train people themselves
Training their own workforce is a possibility, but could be too expensive for some.
· Get other organizations to train people for them
Getting other organizations to train people for them could be another option for firms, but this can also prove too costly for many firms.

Training needs to take into account that the workplace and what goes on in it has changed.

“In industries where a large proportion of the production process has been computerized, workers need a broader underpinning knowledge to effectively manage the production process, and the capacity to solve problems of a diverse nature.”

Change is the only thing that you can depend upon.
Work changes, and then everything else has to.

“Basic clerical skills and basic computer skills appear to be a minimum requirement for most jobs.”
“Workers need the capacity to learn about new products and processes as they are introduced.”
Communication skills are increasingly valued in all occupations due to the increased complexity of interactions between workers and suppliers, colleagues and clients.”

Research organization in the UK have already identified skills needed for most jobs.

· Teamwork
Working in teams builds loyalty, strengthens commitment and one’s sense of responsibility.
· Problem solving
Problems come from many different sources and so solutions come from accessing different disciplines, ways of thinking about the problem, and changes in attitudes to problem solving.
· Communication
This is the big one; if you can’t communicate, you can’t operate, be effective, adapt to new situations, or pass on your knowledge or air your views.
· Management
This doesn’t just mean what CEOs do. Everyone has to manage; manage time, finances, resources, and interpersonal relationships.

Research has found out what small businesses want:-

· Entrepreneurial attitudes
This is a major change in thinking. Traditionally, people leaving school or university expect companies to employ them in ways that the company determines. This is still true, but employees now have to think as if it was their own business, take risks and create wealth.
· Capacity to identify and exploit employment and wealth possibilities
Again, instead of looking at the business world as a given, workers are expected to think laterally, creatively and in ways that often overturn norms and values.
· An ongoing capacity for learning
The idea that you stop learning when you leave school, graduate, or get promotion is long gone. Everyone in an organization is faced with continual change and has to adapt or become redundant.
Large businesses want:-

· Skills in oral and written communication
Communication channels include email, fax, telephone, video-interviewing, oral presentations supported by PowerPoint, for example, face to face dialogue, and written report.
· Skills in interpersonal relations
Informal/formal communications require different skills; cooperation and congeniality, firmness and warmth are the new watchwords.
· Numeracy
Every business has the need for skills in math, accounting and all forms of numerical data.
· Economic literacy
Being aware of economic best practices, the financial constraints associated with capital ventures is paramount in the ‘new economy’.
· Understanding of cultural values
The world is a village, cross cultural exchanges are much more common and tact and understanding are top priorities for companies operating in global markets.
· Worldliness
Being ‘street-wise’ has found respectability in trade and industry. A knowledge of how the world turns is vital.
· The ability to apply knowledge
Merely knowing is not enough: Being able to adapt and apply knowledge to changing and changed circumstances is at a premium.
· Ability to recognize, accept and constantly seek opportunities for change in the context of world best practices
Opportunities don’t necessarily merely present themselves, they have to be looked for, and they have to be recognized. Recognition of opportunities is as vital as searching for them.

To face changes in the workplace, you need to be pro-active, you need to initiate change right now. Ask yourself three questions:
· Where am I now?
Deciding where you are now requires honesty and courage. Realising that you are not anywhere near your personal frontiers can be a shock. Be prepared to be shocked. If you are prepared, it won’t come as too much of a shock, but you may need something to jolt you out of your complacency.
· Where do I want to be?
Again, honesty, self-awareness versus romantic notions and idealistic ambitions. Those last two are not completely useless. Dreams can and do lead to fulfillment in life.
· How do I get there?
Take advice from those who are there to assist you, from those who have done it, and from those who have your very best interests at heart. Listen, listen, listen.

You need a roadmap.
· Organize your time effectively
Time is always at a premium, you just don’t realize it all the time. Keep notes, keep diaries, use anything that works for you but manage your time more effectively than you are doing. Be brutal with your time, but leave yourself some quality time for those personal things that matter, friendship and family, they will sustain you when you most need it.
· Identify steps needed to reach your goal
Be informed - Be careful cutting corners – Be constantly aware of consequences.
· Prepare ‘just in case’ plans
Have other plans just in case things don’t work out – Keep to your main plan, but recognize failure too. The tragedy of failing is failing to know you’ve failed or are about to fail.
· Monitor and evaluate your progress
Watching your progress carefully will help you avoid failing to recognize that you are not succeeding along the lines you planned.

The most important thing is:

In 1997, the Dearing Enquiry recommended students to received structured opportunities to become:
· More aware of themselves
Know your strengths and your weaknesses – Listen to others, and listen to your own instincts; they are often the most reliable facets in knowing yourself.
· More aware of how to learn
Self-reflection in all things, particularly in learning – Knowing what doesn’t work for you is equally as important as knowing what does.
· More aware of how to improve personal performance
Set yourself standards – Be proud of your attainments and your successes – They are worth as much as gold in the world you want to be a part of.
· Better able to cope with the transition to their chosen careers
All change, even change for the better, even voluntary change is stressful and can sometimes threaten your sense of worth, of who you are and of what you want to become.

About the author: Robert L Fielding spent 15 years of his life as a skilled machine tool operator in the engineering industry in Manchester, England. For the past fifteen years, he has been a Lecturer, living and working in six countries in and around the Middle East. He now lives in the UAE, where he teaches at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain.


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