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  • Writer's pictureKieran Cornwall

The guide to Improving the Skills Gap in Michelle R. Weise's "Long Life Learning"

I'm a passionate advocate for lifelong learning. Navigating the technological landscape without formal university education has taught me the value of continuous learning. Michelle R. Weise's book "Long Life Learning" hits close to home, presenting insights into how educational systems and companies can evolve to support individuals in this fast-changing world.

I've done my best here to draw out some of the key areas of the book that we should take note of.

Academic Institutions Must Respond to Work Ecosystem Changes

Academic institutions must face the reality that they are not effectively preparing students for the workforce. Weise cites troubling data revealing that around 43% of recent college graduates are underemployed in their first job. She argues that academia needs a radical realignment with actual job markets.

Amidst this challenging backdrop, there's a silver lining. Employers are increasingly valuing skills over traditional credentials. The crux is that companies and educational institutions must work in tandem to align with the long-term job landscape. Weise's book suggests that we don't need to reinvent the wheel but do need to refine our existing systems.

Employers, what you save now will cost you later!

According to Weise, companies that invest in learning and development see up to a 14% increase in productivity. Despite this, many employers hesitate to invest in workforce development. A short-term focus on hiring new talent might save now but costs pounds later by losing institutional knowledge and eroding company culture.

The concern about employee retention after investment is valid, but it's a risk worth taking. Weise points out that long-term success hinges on nurturing internal talent. So, the positivity here is in the longer view: Companies that invest in their employees today are preparing for a more sustainable future.

Wrap-Around Support for Learners: It's a Must

Weise demonstrates that learners with adequate support networks are 3.2 times more likely to complete courses successfully. While resources are important, they are not sufficient. We need a nurturing environment inclusive of mentorship, mental health resources, and time management coaching.

As Weise discusses, the sheer volume of information and skill sets one must master to be 'job-ready' can be overwhelming. Community support can serve as a guiding force. A support system enhances learning, moving beyond just academic success to building important life skills and emotional well-being.

Learning and Working - creating a symbiotic culture

Companies with learning cultures have 30-50% higher engagement rates, according to Weise. Achieving a symbiotic relationship between learning and work is not an idealistic vision; it's a feasible reality.

Moreover, Weise notes that higher employee engagement often leads to increased profitability. This shifts the conversation from being solely about the bottom line to include employee welfare and growth. When businesses begin investing in people, they often see immediate and significant benefits.

Time to Rethink Hiring & do it fast

Weise highlights that 2 in 3 employers admit to overlooking candidates based on their educational background. I can personally attest to the barriers such incomplete screening imposes. A degree shouldn't be the definitive measure of one's capabilities.

Changing this mindset is not just socially fair but also economically wise. Reports from global organisations like the OECD and the World Economic Forum have been emphasising the importance of skills like Emotional Intelligence. This shows that the focus is shifting toward evaluating the 'whole person' rather than a list of academic qualifications.

WEF 21st Century Skills

No doubt many hiring practices need to change in support of this new way of working and i'm hopeful for the future.

The Path Forward

We're at a tipping point, facing a skills crisis that demands immediate attention. But there's hope. Michelle R. Weise's "Long Life Learning" is a call to action that offers both a roadmap and inspiration.

To make progress, we must dare to disrupt our comfort zones. Change is not just inevitable; it's necessary. And as Weise's invaluable book illustrates, embracing that change opens the door to endless possibilities. So let's not just read about change—let's be the change.

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