This weblog contains advance excerpts of Stephen Denning's next book, A Leaders Guide to Storytelling to be published by Jossey-Bass in 2005.
I really enjoyed Stephen Denning's book The Springboard and also spent some time recently in a leadershi workshop where we explored the power of story telling for creating myth, creating engagement and the 'what if' mindset.
This is on today in Hobart. More Lego than you'd ever imagine!
Students build robots that can dance, play soccer, follow maps and rescue yowie's.
Schools and science groups get together to work on their programs, build robots and practise against each other in preparation for competition day. The dedication that is required to combine the mehanical and programming aspects is huge, and the students complete the work in their own time.
While some groups may learn about the building and programming in class time, my son has been working on this after school and on the weekends with the wonderful support of Stephen at the local CSIRO Education Centre.
What inspires kids to take this on?
- a challenge where within the guidelines their robot can take any form they desire
- programming can be as simple or complex as each student can get their head around
- competition where participation is as important as winning
- students can use the Lego robot system or any other - the Lego system means that the entry bar is low - there are young primary kids right through to year 12
- and it's fun!
Victorian Flexible Learning Week (which lasts for a fortnight), kicked off with a one-day conference at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, just over the river from the city.
TAFE Frontiers do the organising - and also provided me with a free registration - yes, someone does win the prizes for surveys on websites.
Flexible Learning Week continues on until August 27, and presentations are progressively being added to the TAFE Frontiers website.
Dr Stephen Ziguras of the Brotherhood of St Laurence started the conversation at Vic Flexible Learning Week with his keynote addressing the theme of Labour markets in transition. Pdf of a background paper available here.
Dr Z started with outlining current social and economic themes, the polarisation between work family balance, work rich and work poor families, non-linear life courses. Opportunities are being concentrated within families; due to a shift from past reality - from where one partner worked, now often in well-educated families, both partners work, frequently securing the more highly paid jobs. Opportunities have not necessarily diminished; they are now spread on a different basis through society.
Changing economic conditions have also meant that upfront training no longer is sufficient for whole career.
New risks are emerging:
· uncertain work, uncertain income, uncertain time availability, skills obsolescence due to fast pace of change, early retirement, mental health
· the strong emphasis on interpersonal skills in the workplace and the higher rate of change are placing additional demands on those in and out of the workforce. The uncertainty of casual work can negatively impact on young people’s social lives. Long term unemployed also have a higher incidence of mental health issues than the general population. Increasing social cost of the changing world.
The joint project between the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the University of Melbourne on policy formation is not just about economic aims, but also family and community focus - more flexible pathways for people to ease out of work where they want to, rather than being shut out suddenly. Fairer distribution of paid work -people working overtime and people without paid work.
The notion of “transitional labour markets” comes from Gunter Schmidt (Germany) who defines it as ‘periods during which people move between full time work and other activities such as caring, education and retirement'. These may include:
· Education and employment
· Employment and unemployment
· Precarious and permanent employment
People who are least likely to get into work are those with low skills and qualifications, are divorced or separated and have health issues.
Features of good transitions:
· Mixture of activities
· Contracted or legal entitlement to a pathways of transition
What has the Brotherhood of St Laurence been trying to do?
· Youth transitions program in metro Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula which addresses kids at risk of early school leaving – with the aim of reconnecting or maintaining connections with school or employment. Ongoing contact with a case manager maintains links with schools or other options eg TAFE courses or finding ways to link them into less formal or one to one programs.
Implications for VET of operating in a transitional labour market:
· One of key sources of innovation in industry are TAFE trained staff (Report from NCVER Innovation agents: VET skills and innovation in Australian industries and firms at http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/1451.html). These tend to be the people at an operational and supervisory level, not those in management.
· Key educational pathways are needed for those at risk of social exclusion
· Flexible learning is great strength of the VET system
· Retraining in middle life is a challenge still to be met, eg for those made redundant through industry changes.
· Questions about generic vs. specialist skills - increasingly people need generic skills, and specialist skills need to change in response to changing environment.
One of the challenges for lifelong learning is how to fund it – Dr Z was talking here about more than just updating skills or a short course – the project has been 'toying around' (his words)with ideas of social insurance and learning accounts – which might be combination of personal, public and business contributions. They would like to see to most contributions go to low income earners (eg reverse of superannuation arrangements where the highest earners put the most in and get the most out of the system). It was also suggested that the learning account could be transferred when changing employment or could be converted leave.
The issue of funding the VET system was also discussed with a strong social equity flavour – eg for those who earn more, the fees are higher, abolishing upfront payments and establishing a HECS style approach of recouping cost when people are earning. Dr Z also suggested that some subjects should be fee-exempt for some groups.
After Dr Stephen Ziguras, Judy Bissland, Executive Director Educational Development and a 2000 Flexible Learning Leader at Swinburne spoke about "How Providers respond to industry needs".
Judy spoke about the need to respond both to the traditional labour market, as well as the transitional one that is emerging. Judy advised that VET still needs to serve the ‘heart of VET’ the traditional labour market, continuing to provide industry with skilled workers, and using the relative advantage of greater flexibility than the other educational sectors.
Tension between the student and industry demand, in addition to the lag in planning processes from state government agencies, requires that VET do their own planning and investigation. VET may be pushed into delivery in areas where staff may not be available, and they cannot offer security to staff. In the field of New Apprenticeships highly flexible delivery models are needed, but flexibility is not enough – they must also be high quality. To encourage entry into areas of skills shortages, VET needs to work together with industry, schools, careers advisors and so on to address the shortfalls.
The transitional labour market needs a different response; VET needs to respond to change from industrial economy to knowledge economy. We also need to focus on emerging skills needs as identified through research from VET sector. Industry needs staff that can learn new skills and adapt. Swinburne has been focussing on generic skills and innovation skills; some of the biggest challenges are in providing appropriate professional development for staff. This is something I would like to follow up in more detail in a second trip to Melbourne.
Megan Lilly, General Manager Education and Training with the Australian Industry Group, previously Executive Manager at Business Services Training Australia spoke from the industry perspective. Megan explained that from industry perspective, transitional labour markets should also include from employment to employment - maintaining and managing skills sets and job transitions.
She argued that the wealth generating industries are still the production and manufacturing sectors, not the service sector. In addition there are no reliable indicators for skills shortages - many taken from newspapers, despite the reality that not all employers actually advertise. Vacancies do exist for skilled workers. Australian industry also faces some unknown challenges; the emergence of the Chinese economy will change the world economy forever - almost beyond belief. 37 new airports are under construction today!
The relationship between transitional labour markets and casual work
· Casual work not a problem in itself where people are voluntary casuals
· Casual work is really a problem where people can't progress beyond that and they want to.
· Casual work is a real alternative to no work.
Skills shortages creates highly mobile workforce with many options to choose from. Most people stay with their trade for about 7 years so need to consider that in planning to address shortages.
An example of an adopt-a-school program between the motorbody industry and schools was described – this was driven by industry where industry approached a school each to work on a solar car challenge project, focussing on year 9 at risk students. It involved a large time commitment and very strong involvement from senior management and has led to a strong relationship between schools and enterprises. Begun in 2003, the program has continued this year, has extended to formal workplace learning, school based apprenticeships, careers advice, and employment opportunities.
VET and transitional labour markets:
Focus from VET needs to be on skills formation not qualifications. There is increasing demand from industry for increased flexibility from the training system, more focus on the workplace, and a growing need for generic skills and employability skills.
Skills sets need to be reconfigured endlessly – structure around the component parts or job functions, not qualifications as the level.
Megan mentioned the “World class skills for World class Industries" report which is available from the Australian Industry Group website here along with many other publications. Another thing for my reading list.
Mark McCrindle, McCrindle Research was the ‘Gen X & Y’ representative, and spoke about community connections being changed and redefined. We have bigger houses with fewer people in them, so we need new sociological connections between people. Technology is now a mediator for connection. Places where people do come together is in education and workplaces, so social connection needs to take place here.
“Just-in-time loyalty" describes the loyalty Gen X & Y will give to their employer, if a better offer comes along, then they may well jump ship. This relates to their need for more meaning and a better work life balance than they have seen their parents have. Stress levels have risen, young people can’t afford houses at the same stage of life, so generation Y especially is living for the day. Nothing earth shattering in this presentation really.
Megan felt that apprentice wages are a fairly significant disincentive to undertaking an apprenticeship. Many young people have aspirational parents who have pushed them to university and Megan felt this is linked to the 40% drop out rate at the end of 1st year Uni.
Q: what form of flexibility is most valued by industry?
Megan responded that the type of flexibility varies, but generally industry does not want large blocks of training, and for VET to be more adaptable in deconstructing and reconstructing learning pathways as needed.
Judy was asked how do you achieve that?
Do the things that the system is already doing, but more: listen to what industry clients need, taking learning to the workplace, do onsite delivery in workplace, ensure training is applied to learner’s role in workplace through projects etc.
Time for coffee and scones!
Refreshed by a coffee, I attended my first workshop presented by Lillian Austin, a current Flexible Learning Leader, & Christine Hayes from Swinburne. Lillian and Christine have been working on a project to embed generic skills into existing resources and key learnings so far have been:
· Yes, it’s possible
· Use a whole of course approach to address all generic skills.
· Don't cram all 10 into the one unit
· Need to engage support services that are available already
· Generic skills need to be developed by learners over period of time and seen as a continuum.
· There is variation between units in how they address generic skills - some are quite explicit others more underneath or hidden.
The term generic skills may be better replaced with ‘employability skills’ as this seems to be more attractive to learners. Swinburne has also been using their Industry Reference Groups as guides in where generic skills should be addressed.
The process that has been followed is:
· Mapping from materials to generic skills to determine if changes needed
· In some cases no real change or small changes needed.
· Can overdo this though if trying to cover too many generics, so need to see where the generic skills are best addressed within a range of competencies.
· Sometimes required additional text to cover in written materials (often this would be given verbally in a f2f situation)
· Also have added extra information about generic skills and why employers like them
The team is still grappling with how to assess and record people's work.
A project report should be available during September from the TAFE Frontiers website.
On another track, the novel I took away with me was Jasper Fforde's "The Well of Lost Plots" which is a literary detective novel. In this second book of a trilogy (soon to be quadruplets?) much of the action is set in a world where plots are constructed, characters developed, dialogue is written and so on. Each character in a book is played by a fictional person, who start as 'generics' and then are trained to take on parts in novels. Sadly, if a novel is not published, the text is salvaged and broken down into individual letters to be re-used, the generics are auctioned off to traders in book parts and the cycle begins again. Generics are not happy to be generics, and strive towards developing a personality and getting more than a bit part in a story. Maybe employability skills would be better. Sorry Lillian, my notes about your presentation have got rather off track :-)
After lunch, the current status of the Flexible Learning Framework was examined - very much the information contained in the consultation paper, with no specifics about future direction. However there were a couple of case studies woven into this presentation:
Meat Safety Training in Industry using the Toolbox, by South West Institute
and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's journey to "consult and plan flexible delivery in alignment with the the competency based continuing education and training needs of the workforce."
Full complement of case studies is here at the TAFE Frontiers website. These case studies generally have enough detail to really get a feel for what is happening at various sites.
Eric Wilson, an IT journalist and software developer, spoke about some of the possibilities offered by various software solutions. He said that the private sector can get away with small simulations and games because they only need to address only small pieces of information and some basic quizzing rather than the scale of VET and our sectors's compliance requirements. He advocated materials that allowed both a sequential and random access pathway - for those in business, they need random access to access just-in-time materials, but these could also be built into a more ordered pathway for those with more to learn.
The Opportunities for VET as seen by Eric were:
- Small business is the greatest opportunity - time is everything (so if I can figure this one out we're made!!)
- Keep business benefits in mind eg "Do this course and you’ll be so efficient you and your employees will have more time."
- There is a real challenge going from the general to the specific.
Eric argued that VET should develop resources that address the specific context of the workplace, with the view in mind that when replacement staff are employed then the business can use the resources again. The resources would also feed into a 'commonwealth of resources', ie niche curriculum development.
This would enable VET to provide specific resources at a specific time to businesses once the stocks build up.
Chunking has advantages for employer, but some disadvantages for learner - eg learners only learn what is needed for their role, learners don't tend to get recognition for it, learners can end up not being skilled enough for moving employers.
The second workshop for the day was presented by Lisa Waits of e-Works which is an offshoot of Kangan Batman TAFE and manages a number of programs for OTTE (VET Govt department in Victoria).
Lisa spoke about the transition of the ANTA Toolboxes into Learning Objects. Starting with an outline of the educational foundations of toolboxes which include:
- virtual workplaces
- immersive learning
- problem based learning
- facilitated, mediated learning experience
- collaboration is encouraged
- resource rich.
In the new Series 7 Toolboxes ...
... the development is moving more towards a learning object (LO) approach and Lise defined a LO as 'any digital resource than can be used to support learning'. It should contain a learign sequence of some sort, an activity, and a learning outcome, and will generally be smaller than a unit of competency.
Whilst new toolboxes are focussed on LOs, they will also be packaged in such a way that all resources can be bundled and provided to learners on CD as the current ones can be. Some welcome discussion ensued about how contextualised or decontextualised a resource can be, whether we should be contextualising, how small a LO can be withouth it being too small. No real answers were pinned to the table, but the general feeling was that we should not contextualise too far, or too little. Just how long is a piece of string??
On Tuesday morning I met with Anna Henderson, a current FLL, who filled me in on the findings of her project so far.
The Waste Management industry does not have a long history of formalised training, the competency standards were endorsed in 2000 and some areas of Australia have taken them on more than others. A number of factors contribute to the flexibility of training in this area:
- not many RTOs delivering
- RTOs delivering out of their normal geographical area
- no long history of formal training in area - and no baggage!
- many large firms operating in industry
- RTOs promoting to industry the value of participating in training
Training mainly happens on-the-job facilitated by an external trainer eg - a crew may come together at the start of a shift, the trainer tuns through some underpinning knowledge and demonstrations, then the crew gets to work. Observation and some role play or simulation are used as assessment methods along with workplace supervisor feedback. Role plays and simulations are used in areas of higher risk eg toxic waste or confined spaces.
Generally Anna has found that the industry is not keen on the idea of elearning, or use of audio cds in trucks, but it may be used as a tool for entry into training markets such as SE Asia. This resistance may be due to a very practically focussed industry where employees are 'in there doing it.' The industry is also seeing a shift from waste transport to waste minimisation.
The Waste Management Industry has links and many shared competencies with the Transport and Distribution Industry where the training culture is slightly older. The success of the Transport Training Package was promoted to the Waste Mgt Industry.
Drivers for developing a training culture in Waste include:
- interest in environmental factors
- enterprising RTOs
- (Training) Board member enthusiasm
The main push for developing a training culture has come from industry where large companies who serve large areas can see a need for it. There is some prevocational training, but the majority of training happens on the job for people employed in the industry. The training in industry has created enthusiasm- generally people working in this field have not been academically successful, and recognising the skills workers have, really excites them. When learners do well, they re-engage with education. Having training happen on-the-job makes it more engaging, minimises literacy issues, uses a buddy system so learners can rely on each other's knowledge.
I look forward to seeing Anna's final presentation.
No, not junk emails.
Before getting on a train to Wodonga, I met briefly with Clint Smith at TAFE Frontiers and a current FLL. Clint is investigating workforce development, performance improvement and Learning Management Systems. One system he mentioned was the 'Friday5s' which is an integrated system for workers to set goals, plot actions, and report back on what they have done. Often these are the steps that are missing after providing professional development.
Performance Improvement is an emerging field, and there may well be a conference at the end of November in Melbourne at the end of this year. Watch this space.