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Not just a cliche, lifelong learning is even more important amid disruption

March 19th, 2018 | by Grace Chng
Not just a cliche, lifelong learning is even more important amid disruption
Enterprise
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Lifelong learning doesn’t just mean formal lessons. PHOTO: Pexels (Creative Commons)

The biggest challenge facing governments and organisations today is helping people to update their skills amid fast-changing economies. Those with the right skills will have the jobs.

But what are the skills? Where do I start to learn?

Let’s get back to basics first. All this talk about learning is due to rapidly changing economies, customer expectations and the relentless march of technology.

Great uncertainty hangs over the heads of business leaders and workers as digitisation sweeps across all businesses.

Software firm CA Technologies recently highlighted this in a survey of 900 business leaders in the Asia-Pacific, where about 76 per cent indicated their organisations have been digitally disrupted.

The survey, conducted across nine countries including Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Japan, also showed that organisations are finding it tough to cope with changing customer expectations and a changing workforce that requires re-skilling.

A major way to ease the pressures is to update the skills of the workforce, said Martin McKay, CA’s president and general manager for Asia-Pacific and Japan.

Re-skilling is needed as increasingly business operations in the future will be tackled by software, he noted. People need to be trained to use and apply the software in the running of business operations.

In another event held by tech firm Dell Technologies, a similar refrain was heard. Panel discussions organised by Dell last week highlighted the need for continuous learning and the need for a mindset change in the way learning is approached in companies.

Panellists called upon business leaders to look beyond the traditional way of learning and to create an environment for employees to learn.

For starters, business leaders must lead the way to create mindset change in their organisations.

They must be willing to disrupt themselves, to admit they don’t know everything that is happening in their digital journeys and begin to search for new knowledge and skills, said panellist David Yeo, chief learning architect of the Kydon Group, which helps organisations set up learning systems.

All of this leads to workers who are inundated every day by stories on the destruction of jobs due to digital transformation. Existing jobs will evolve and change beyond recognition. Where do they start to learn?

Continuous learning, lifelong learning, re-skilling. They are clichés. Yet, these concepts are not going away, they are here to stay indefinitely.

The key idea to lifelong learning is learning how to learn. And it need not be formal education. It may not be about taking another course on coding or machine learning.

Hajar Ali, founder of luxury adventure travel firm Urbane Nomads, suggested a more unorthodox approach, that of building on your passions and expertise.

Sharing her entrepreneurial journey during the panel discussions, she described how she wanted to be more than a successful property agent marketing luxury assets in Singapore. She wanted to do something with a global impact.

While on a trip to Argentina, she saw high-end property assets. That was the “aha” moment for her, coupling her love of travelling with marketing. Urbane Nomads was thus born to provide travellers who want among other things, high-end safari tours, polo and riding adventures and snow sports.

Self-directed learning may be a way to personal entrepreneurial growth. I would also add that it is a way of pre-empting your premature exit from your company.

It may be too late if you’re still waiting for your employer to send you to the next course to learn a new skill. Picking up skills from one’s own effort can be done in a few ways. Learn from books, network with a variety of executives or take a short course.

Or you can turn to the Web where there are many free how-to tutorials on a variety of skills from repairing digital cameras to running digital marketing campaigns.

A search on YouTube on “how to do a digital marketing campaign” turned up 886,000 results. Master this and continue on to “how to measure a digital marketing campaign”.

There are 34,600 video clips on digital marketing metrics and measurement on YouTube. Then so on and so forth.

These learn-at-your-own pace tutorials range from a few hours to a few days. They are specific and allow you to apply them immediately. Significantly, they are also let you build the learning scaffold on which you can stack your skills.

SkillSET project

A new way of self-directed learning on a global scale is coming. CA Technologies, for example, is opening some parts of its training tools to the public.

Users will have access, free of charge, to the self-paced training materials ranging from general business skills to more advanced topics such as cyber security, big data or Internet of things.

CA is part of a project led by the World Economic Forum, called the IT Industry Skills Initiative or SkillSet. Other project members include Accenture, PwC, Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Salesforce, all of whom will open part of their training libraries to the public.

Announced during the WEF’s annual Davos meeting in Switzerland in February 2018, the SkillSet aims to reach one million people with resources and training opportunities by 2021.

Among the tools available are tailored skills assessments to help users determine which coursework and/or learning pathways best fit their current skillset and learning goals, according to the WEF.

Chaired by CA chief executive Mike Gregoire, Skillset will be working over the next few months to develop tools and processes to address many of the barriers that prevent adults from re-skilling or successfully completing training programmes.

This is a good move by industry to address the re-skilling of workers on a global scale. Now wouldn’t it be super, if Asian companies from Samsung and Lenovo to Singtel and Sony do the same?

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