The Fourth Industrial Revolution is different to previous revolutions due to the unprecedented rate of change and increased complexity of related issues.
There is a recognised gap between the skills being taught through formal education and those required by companies. Aspects of this issue include:
- Formal Education not keeping up with the rate of change of required skills;
- Degrees and certification not guaranteeing jobs;
- The aging workforce (and later retirement age) requires older employees to be retrained to keep them relevant and valuable in the workplace;
- Companies are creating their own training opportunities for employees rather than looking to formal education institutions.
Regardless of the causes and impact of the skills gap the key solution is to re-envision learning and embrace the imperative for developing a culture of lifelong learning (both within formal education and the workplace), where the learning takes many forms, including formal; informal; incidental; and workplace-based.
Leerpark provides a case study demonstrating a model that is proving to solve many of the identified problems of the skills gap.
Our solution to the problem takes the defining principles and philosophy of the Leerpark model and, using technological innovation, creating a scalable and iterative online solution called ediGogy.
UK Positioning and Policy
In common with all countries, the UK faces the challenge of identifying new ways of continually evolving the skills of the new and existing workforce at a time of great change.
Each of the four nations within the UK has their own skills strategy. However, there are some common core themes and approaches including:
- up-skilling the adult workforce;
- improved careers advice (for example, all age career services);
- simplified and responsive further education and Vocational Education and Training (VET);
- improved use of skills in the workplace;
- increased demand for skills through increased employer ambition;
- targeted support for skill-development in SMEs.
These themes are not dealt with very well within current manual systems and our argument is that the whole system needs an overhaul, a new strategy, new assessment and a new business model.
There are hundreds of organisations involved in this process and millions of people. None of this activity is coordinated or effectively tracked and monitored for quality, and the wastage must be vast. We propose a holistic online system that links all stakeholders and provides unique insights and measurements that were not possible before.
Vivagogy is a company incorporated in the UK and in Europe. Our global team is dedicated to producing a better, more equitable system for learning and training by measuring all forms of learning in competency output. As well as providing an innovative recruitment and training program for companies, our aim is to create free access to learning and assessment for as many learners as possible.
Our business model is to produce great added value and cost savings for organisations in recruitment and talent management, and charge for access to tools and data that will support making learning “free”.
We are a team of teachers, assessors, educators, software designers and skills experts who have experience at all levels in the UK and globally. We are starting the design of a revolutionary software and talent management system, which links all the processes in learning and competency acquisition into a lifelong learning portfolio directly with employers to solve the Skills Gap.
Examples and details are given on the Team page of our site.
I am the CEO and Founder of the company, and jointly designed the learning and assessment system and business model. I am a teacher and have wide management and business experience particularly in the digital application of learning and assessment.
Perhaps, the most significant difference to all preceding revolutions is the speed and impact of its progression. According to McKinsey (2018) “compared with the First Industrial Revolution, we estimate that this change is happening 10 times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact”.
Since man first moved into caves and discovered fire, we have been on an evolutionary path which has been getting exponentially faster, with each big innovation interacting with others to produce an accelerated effect.
We must now find new ways of dealing with these complex and interconnected changes holistically.
The speed of change and our inability to adapt by learning new skills are the biggest threats to the survival of our species. It is the acquisition of new competencies which will determine whether, and how, we survive.
Most current commentary about the 4th Industrial Revolution demonstrates little understanding that existing systems cannot cope, and that just adapting with the latest technology is not a viable solution.
Rigid system designs will not work.
Systems need to be fluid to change at the necessary speed.
This is true of all systems political, economic, social and all of their subsets of the macro systems of which formal learning or education is a case in point.
The Skills Gap – misnomer or reality
We know many jobs will be automated in the future, which will produce new jobs but today we still hear employers saying that there aren’t enough skilled workers to meet employers’ needs globally. This applies to new workers and the existing workforce.
This issue has been widely referred to as the ‘Skills Gap’ and yet it is more complex than one problem – it is multi-faceted:
Formal Education is not keeping up with the rate of change of required skills
There is significant evidence that the competencies which learners acquire in formal education are not relevant to the current workplace.
Competencies for current and future employment are not being taught in formal learning. Added to that is the continuous shift in the skills landscape at an ever-increasing speed, which makes it impossible for education to meet this ever-changing need. We are simply not able to train new and existing employees fast enough.
“The qualification system is at the root of the problem. Vocational qualifications are set by boards and must follow Ofqual guidelines. Updating them is a laborious process that can take up to two years. The system is simply too slow to keep up with the rapid changes in industry.”
Formal education is therefore becoming less relevant to commerce and students alike
“Data released this week shows that public universities and colleges are struggling to find takers for their courses, raising questions on their viability and relevance to the job market. ”
Degrees and certification do not guarantee jobs.
Even when students are gaining degrees and certificates, there is no guarantee that they will provide an avenue into the workforce.
There are also more pathways to a career that do not require formal qualifications as more and more employers abandon minimal academic entry standards.
“There are about 30 million “good jobs” that do not require an undergraduate degree and will pay an average of $55,000, and minimum of $35,000.” ’
The Age Bubble
The continually aging workforce and retirement age is being pushed back, leaving millions of people with the need to continue working for longer periods for which they need to continually update their skills in order to remain useful.
Companies are creating their own training opportunities for employees rather than looking to formal education institutions
Companies are increasingly seeing the need to create their own training opportunities to develop the necessary skills in new workers, as well as evolve the changing skills requirements brought on due to technological and other innovations. Even these system, however, are being overloaded by demand.
With trust in the vocational system steadily eroding, it is of no surprise that major employers such as JCB, EDF energy and Rolls-Royce have set up their own training academies.
A mismatch between jobs and skills is creating a ‘flood or drought’ phenomenon
Already half the global workforce of 850 million is being under-utilised and there is no system in place to rectify this problem.
“The UK labour market also exhibits high levels of qualification mismatch and apparent under-utilisation of skills. About 30% of UK workers believe they are over-qualified for their jobs, the second highest proportion after Japan according to the OECD report.”
“Skill shortages and mismatches have negative implications for the economy and the labour market. They can result in increased labour costs, lost production due to unfilled vacancies, slower adoption of new technologies, and the implicit and explicit costs of higher unemployment rates.”
The cost and damage of the Skills Gap problems are enormous and increasing
“90 per cent of employers have struggled to recruit workers with the right skills in the last 12 months. The skills gap is costing UK businesses more than £2 billion a year in higher salaries, recruitment costs and temporary staffing.”
The impact of the “Skills Gap” on a company’s productivity
Even inside commerce many have admitted to not having the right competencies.
“Despite this positivity from organisations, seven in 10 (69%) businesses believe they will struggle to hire people with the right skills in the next 12 months, implying certain skills may take longer to build. With three in five (58%) employers saying the skills shortage has damaged their organisation, it is important that they ensure their training programmes provide their staff with the skills they require, in a way that allows them to put their new knowledge into practice in the workplace as soon as possible.”
The skills that are missing – beyond ‘soft skills’
There is an overwhelming unity around the kinds of skills most needed, but they aren’t being taught anywhere. They are competencies in activities supporting collaboration, communication, teamwork, diversity, persistence, creative thinking and data management, which need to be learned not taught.
“The kinds of activities least likely to be automated happen to be the same activities facing talent deficits! This could be seen as great news if we are prepared to close this gap.”
“This is a significant report that highlights concern around the development of soft skills in pupils and new entrants to the world of work. It’s likely that the focus on outcomes from terminal examinations has pushed the development of soft skills to the margins of many pupils’ educational experience. The report calls for schools to do more to develop young people’s confidence and communication skills; the findings suggest the vast majority of teachers would support such moves”.
“Demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking and decision making, and complex information processing will grow through 2030, at cumulative double-digit rates”.
The need for a culture within education and businesses for lifelong learning
A culture of lifelong learning is needed within the workforce and organisations – because of change we all need to learn all of the time.
“A large portion of the companies we surveyed see a significant need for their workforce to upgrade their skills and continue to learn and adapt throughout their working lives. In fact, establishing a culture of lifelong learning was ranked by companies across most sectors as the change most needed for developing the workforce of the future”.
“A survey of more than 3,000 business leaders in seven countries highlights a new emphasis on continuous learning for workers and a shift to more cross-functional and team-based work. As tasks change, jobs will need to be redefined and companies say they will need to become more agile.”
What are the key components of a new type of learning system for the 21st Century?
Before we can develop solutions, we must recognise some of the key issues.
- Existing systems will not work and cannot be adapted because they are not built to work at these speeds – new systems are needed.
“To harness the new technologies to their full effect, firms will need to rethink and retool their corporate structure and their approaches to work. That means redesigned business processes and a new focus on the talent they have—and the talent they need.”
- New systems have to be built on transparent 21st Century social principles and be cost effective.
“A number of recent studies on the future of education share the overarching vision of a more personalised, collaborative and informal education, that is shaped by and incorporates contemporary technologies, in order to provide the skills, habits and values of innovation for the learners. This in turn, will only be possible by developing the appropriate learning content, assessment methods and delivery systems, which need to be combined with corresponding pedagogies, flexible curricula, validation mechanisms for non-formal learning. In order to be successful, a reform of such scale must take place in close collaboration with societal partners other than the education institutions and requires a new role for the teacher and parent.”
- New systems will need to predict trends to be ahead of the demand curve. We will need to predict demand for skills we do not yet know and build suitable learning mechanisms for them.
- We will have to dynamically balance the supply and demand of the labour market, and provide learning solutions for each person at no cost or produce a revenue to cover the costs.
Leerpark – An Example of a System that Works
Despite Governments in all countries spending hundreds of millions trying to find solutions, little headway has been made.
We know of, and have studied, a successful solution that has existed for ten years and is a proven example of good practice.
It has just received an award from the EU for vocational training innovation.
It is a vocational training college in Dordrecht, Netherlands called Leerpark.
In the early 90’s, youth unemployment in the Netherlands was at 30%, and the dropout rate in vocational education was between 30% and 50%.
Dordrecht is in an area of 250 sq. kilometres with 300,000 inhabitants. At the time the college opened, it was an old industrial area with a poorly educated population where, since the early 20th Century, 45% of the working population had worked in shipbuilding and steel works.
The region had high youth unemployment, low skill levels and had a deep-seated negative view of education. Many young people in the area considered themselves to be at the ‘bottom of the labour pile’ and had a negative view of education from which they just wanted to escape as soon as possible.
Max Hoefeijzers and his team took over the failing Da Vinci College in Dordrecht, and construction started in 2004 with a budget of €180 million, funded by a Public Private Partnership (PPP) which included:
- the Da Vinci College
- local government
- commercial investors
- property developers
- building companies
- investment funds
- local businesses.
The innovations were many:
- Housing for learners on campus with a social contract that rewarded them for studying successfully;
- Buildings producing revenue to support the learning budget;
- The assets of the campus were used to create commercial loans from banks;
- The revenue was used to subsidise the local education department budget;
- Social housing grants were generated to develop property and facilities;
- Reduced rentals were provided to public services, like the fire service, to induce them to relocate and create rent revenue towards developing the campus;
- All the buildings and future developments have a relationship with learning because they provide jobs, learning students and their courses.
The principle of integrating learning into the fabric of the site extends beyond its construction and buildings. Learning and work areas are not classrooms, but real places of employment, bringing current best practice into the vocational courses.
There is a hairdresser, a shop, a garage, a restaurant, a fire station, a department in a hospital and a sustainable factory, or FABLAB, (built on the same principles as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Notably, the FABLAB is oversubscribed and has paid for itself in 10 years!
Living on campus is part of the students’ personal development and the direct reward for living in a new apartment, in return for continued achievement and progress in training, is a powerful tool to create motivated responsible citizens working for their own futures in their local communities.
The courses are competency-based and assessed by government standards for vocational qualifications in conjunction with employer’s assessment criteria and include generic 21st Century life and work competencies.
The unique aspect of the program is that students map their own path through the course by carrying out tasks for companies in any order required by real workflow governed by business requirements. There is no timetable as such!
The competency and skills assessment is then matched against the curriculum standards and statements, so the learning paths can be personalised for each student and a company’s commercial situation.
There are more than 90 companies now involved, both multinationals and small local companies, including L’Oréal, Siemens, IHC Holland Shipbuilding, Krone Altometer and Damen Shipyards.
The core pedagogical principles are:
- An authentic work experience with real jobs, real customers, time pressure and real money;
- The student is encouraged to take responsibility for creating their own curriculum and to reflect on the learning process, which focuses them on achievement;
- Life and soft skills are evaluated and credited in the programmes;
- There is no timetable – students are self-directed and self-manage their own programme;
- Learning paths are coordinated so students can take skills acquired to new courses or higher education.
What are the results?
12 years later:
- 28,000 students have enrolled
- Employment completion rates from courses are 97%
- Local employers list Leerpark as their preferred source of talent
- The student dropout rate is still reducing and is less than 4%
- The local environment is now crime free and property prices have increased
- 40% of students go on to higher education
- Rotterdam University has placed various departments on the campus
- The pedagogical model is now being tested to be replicated throughout the Dutch education system
- The Da Vinci College won an award for innovative vocational training in 2017.
Our system concepts and design are based on and proven by the Leerpark case study.
Our systems will improve the above successful model by:
- automating assessment of all types of learning, formal, informal and incidental;
- creating and curating appropriate content;
- managing individual learning paths;
- managing the flow of information between the stakeholders, students, teachers, expert industry coaches, companies, education management, assessment bodies and government education organisations;
- reducing administration costs;
- disseminating information more efficiently and effectively;
- integrating all processes;
- producing revenue from talent management and recruitment;
- creating links globally and locally;
- integrating competency paths into schools;
- creating a continuous competency profile for lifelong learning
- developing a marketing tool to involve and recruit companies
“Using e-learning platforms to complement traditional classroom training is an effective way to build not just technical skills, but also train workers on “soft” skills such as communication and collaboration needed to succeed in the corporate world.”
“Organisations need an agile workforce that can embrace change and meet new challenges. The cost of the skills gap (£2.2 billion) to the UK economy shows it must become a business and government priority to build the skills and capabilities of each individual through investing in talent at all levels.” Steve Hill, External Engagement Director at The Open University.”
If we are to change the chronic problems in vocational education, brave decisions need to be taken. Funding should be aligned with regional economic priorities. Local enterprise partnerships could influence funding allocation, setting out a local skills strategy in consultation with employers and educators.
Existing system are failing, and few innovations have succeeded in the face of budget restraints.
We offer a proven case study as a model, a completely new system and revenue generation model based on that case study.
We have a team of experts who can deliver the model. We believe we have a deep and informed understanding of the whole problem and have a viable solution
Chris Heron CEO – firstname.lastname@example.org, 0033638807444
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