Among my many regular stops for input to this blog is Microsoft’s excellent but incredibly varied and mutable Born To Learn blog. That’s why I really didn’t know what to expect when I dived into a post from my old friend and colleague, Lutz Ziob this morning (Lutz is presently the General Manager of MS Learning, but also an old Novell colleague and long-time industry colleague and friend). This blog is entitled “Reflections from the UNESCO TVET Conference” and it is just chock-full of interesting and amazing insights into the future of technology learning and IT certification. It probably helps to understand that TVET stands for “Technology and Vocational Education and Training,” and was the focus for a third UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) International Congress on TVET held in Shanghai, China, last week.
According to Lutz, the topic for this year’s conference was “Transforming TVET.” As he himself points out, this has broader implications than how TVET might grow and change itself. It also casts bright light onto the notion that technology is changing everything about the kinds of jobs people fill, and the way that we must develop current and future members of the workforce to fill such positions. It’s very much the case that technology is taking a bigger role in every kind of work, and moving to center stage for those already in the workforce, and for those who must be prepared to pick up their skills and implements to join the workforce sooner or later.
Lutz quotes IDC to state that “the percentage of all jobs requiring some technology skills will grow from 50% today to 77% in the next decade” and “that 60% of the jobs that will exist in 10 years do not even exist today.” These are amazing statistics, and point to the need for a refashioning of our education and training systems in fundamental ways. Education has to invent ways to train those in school from elementary thru post-graduate education to be ready to learn new skills, tools, and technologies as they take shape, and make their way into the workplace. He then goes onto to illustrate how much things are changing with stories about the kinds of software and tools that support modern “smart lights” that light the way ahead for automobiles, how 3-D printing technology is used in his dentist’s office to build dental crowns in minutes, and how traditional trades like plumbing, pipefitting, and HVAC are becoming increasingly dominated by computer-aided design, diagnosis, and repair.
I have to agree with Lutz’s conclusion that all this means that the OECD’s conclusion that “skills are the key to the prosperity of nations and to better lives for individuals in the 21st century” is both absolutely correct and completely inarguable. It’s all about providing the appropriate skills and knowledge to let individuals use the best of what tools and technology have to offer, not only by boosting productivity and creating substantial new areas of work and commerce, but also by teaching people how to adapt to and adopt new technologies and ways of working with the tools, systems, and methods they bring in their wake (this last sentence is a rough paraphrase of the paragraph from Lutz’s blog that includes the link to the “Towards an OECD Skills Strategy” document that resulted from the OECD 2011 conference to which he refers — it’s definitely worth a quick once-over, too).
Microsoft is a part of the corporate world that seeks to rise to this challenge. Given high global levels of youth unemployment, Lutz correctly observes that the need to transform TVET and get it out there is probably more important than it might ordinarily be (which I have to submit is pretty darn vital in any set of circumstances). He also indicates that the company is partnering with various UN and other international organizations “to help bring cutting-edge technology to education and training, helping to make it more effective and scalable, more widely available, less costly, more student-centric and engaging.” I can only hope the whole corporate world gets onto this bus, and helps us drive it to the young people of the world in dire need of such information and support.
It should be very interesting to see what kinds of results these kinds of efforts produce. I can hardly wait to understand the offerings and training materials and content that are sure to result, and to try them out for myself (and my 8-year-old son, who already shows significant appetites for science, math, and computing).