Tagged: employment

Why Are We So Opinionated About Public Education?

Why is education an open field for public opinions where so many with no training in teaching are convinced their views are as valid or competent as the professional educators’?

Perhaps deep down we believe we are experts at educating children because the human race has practiced simple forms of education over millions of years of evolution. Humans have the longest childhood among all species. A necessary requirement for becoming an adult is learning how to operate in a complex environment. We are born with instructions that demand us to teach our children how to walk, speak, use tools, and understand social norms.

Parents take pride in the way they “educate” their children at home. This learning period in anyone’s life is deeply emotional. Early years of parental education is a period of attachment during which children and parents establish strong bonding.

In contrast, as a recent invention in our long history, school is an artificial extension of a social relationship created and nurtured beyond the family home boundaries. Teachers never achieve the same status of trusted relationship with children not only because they missed the early opportunity to imprint attitudes, but also because their institutional goals serve a different purpose. Despite the dedication of millions of teachers, the connection between children and school is very thin and fragile. Schools are meant to serve a different master whose interest is to produce a workforce capable of supporting its socio-economic domain.

Many educational initiatives attempt to describe themselves as “student-centric”, or caring for “children’s wellbeing” don’t’ tell the entire story, which is the fact that they are designed to comply with the demands of the political system that funds them, and which in turn are separated by so many levels of bureaucratic layers from the individual families. They want to be close to the students, but the gap between individual families and state-wide social systems is so wide, they cannot ever achieve the ‘kinship’ status.

The relationship between schools and parents is difficult and the main reason it has worked so far is because of its practical value. This invisible contract worked for a few hundred years despite many difficulties because the parents and schools in the end served the same master. As children learned skills they need as members of the future workforce in a society representing their ‘natural’ habitat, parents have no choice but to accept the school’s role in preparing their children to survive as adults. Plus, parents need to go to work and someone has to mind their children while they are away from home; they have to outsource the education to people outside the immediate family.

How can schools give their students life skills? What worked in the past two hundred years doesn’t necessarily work in the next fifty years. In Australia the unemployment rate is now 5.4%. If you think this is a good rate, compare this with the unemployment rate in 1970: 0.9%. In 1951 it was even lower: 0.3%! In absolute numbers, we have 656,400 unemployed people today versus 78,000 unemployed people then. Schools were doing wonders; if you had education you got a job, no question asked. Today, good school education does not give any guarantees.

The lack of certainty plays on one essential evolutionary concern: our children have strong bodies and sharp minds that can figure out how to solve problems during their adult lives (in line with the culture they belong to). There is no other profession, other than medical care, that is so directly linked to our survival as a species. Medicine has been a mysterious secret protected by a few since the dawn of mankind. It needs access to scarce materials and know-how and it cannot be practiced at home. Education, on the other hand, that is another story. Key to survival of the individual, the tribe and its culture, it has remained a part of us as probably the oldest occupation that we still practice without even knowing. This is why people are so passionate when it comes to education.

Need for Skills: Unrabble-ing The Temptation of the Perfect Resume

To cut costs, a job needs to be standard and be aimed at standard workers, so that recruiters can look for candidates using keywords and quick screening methods. As one job ad attracts huge number of responses, standardisation means less time is spent on filtering. As a consequence, the role of recruiters is reduced to simple clerical work, which is the code for it-can-be-automated.

Unrabble.com does exactly that: take the pain out of recruitment process into the pleasure of ticking online boxes. Recruiting now is fun. Or, is it?

Like many fresh innovative and promising start-ups the solution looks really good. The data entry screens, the filtering algorithms, the graphs & charts are bliss. It’s a pleasure! You have evaluation tools, collaboration tools and productivity tools. You have everything.

Unrabble looks really great. It is online, it’s clean and it is clear. The problem starts when it comes to translation. Not to be too negative, but this is a bit like the Heidelberg theory of uncertainty which says that you cannot measure simultaneously space and time with precision. The equivalent theory of recruitment uncertainty is that you could not simultaneously be precise about activities and personal skills in the same time. If you focus on activities using exact measures, then you lose clarity about what the real skills are. If you focus on personal skills, you lose clarity on activities, which is the problem with resumes that have “fluffy” narrative. Personal skills could be described by putting together activities and outcomes presented in a certain light. Same activities could determine the formation of multiple skills. By using precise time based descriptors, only one picture can emerge, which is eventually quite inaccurate impression of who you are, or what you can do. This prevents the candidates from highlighting the skills used during the experience that are relevant to the job.

I mentioned in a previous post that employers are increasingly looking at prospective employees as actors joining a crew in a movie set. How will Unrabble help employers recruit the people that really fit with their business culture and work style?

It seems that we are induced to cultivate a set of standard quantifiable skills that could be easily employed in freelance/crowdsourcing model, in which project teams are assembled based on these quantifiable skills. We are becoming virtual characters with digital attributes, measured, manipulated and moved around in a huge real-life Moneyball movie set. The ugly side of crowdsourcing is that we become numbers. The good news is that this is not the whole story. Innovation needs creativity and creativity needs human skills that are hard to quantify, free flowing individual expression, knowledge and intuition, and human relatedness that are essential in creating great teams.

If I had a crystal ball, and I was a good reader, I would say the future employment is a combination of the two. We will need to be able to find short term opportunities for which our skills are a perfect match and which are discoverable over Internet using standard definitions and indicators, but we also need to explore opportunities based on personal relationships in which we work as part of a team creating new products in a start-up style. This may lead to the creation of other jobs, and if the venture succeeds it will either become large or it will be assimilated by a larger organisation. Growth will lead to clear labour division and the future employees will be the ones hired on the basis of standard skill set.

How would employers evaluate your suitability of the traditional resume structure is too rigid to be used as a good measure? The answer is your online identity, your personal brand that is being created over the years through layers of interactions, contributions to discussions, publications, opinions and associations. This will trump the resume as an indicator of who you are. A perfect resume can be written in one day, but the identity takes a life time to build.

Your online expressions are gradually painting a complete picture of you, a much more comprehensive description of your skills as a potential cast member in a creative project. Employers will use virtual identity that to evaluate your suitability. Is that scary? Maybe not, because of the variety of needs and circumstances, there will always be something out there that suits our personal expression and ability to solve problems in a creative way.

What happens if you don’t have a public online identity? I suspect that over the next decades the answer to that question will be: you don’t exist.