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The G Trends to consider in education

Education has been getting a lot of criticism for not fulfilling its purpose. Some even claiming, that schools are not preparing our children to the world of work and are ‘being out of touch of industry and skills demand’.

For education to fulfil its mission, I believe we need to look ahead at trends and respond to the skills and talent required. Keep renovating our curriculum and incorporate soft skills and mental coping tools.

I’ve categorized Some of the trends to consider in education policies and curriculum to the five Gs:

  1. Green economy
  2. Gender
  3. Generation (technology progress)
  4. Gaming
  5. Hygiene physical and mental

Lockdown and work from a home situation caused a significant reduction in usage of transportation and the plummet in petrol prices. This raised the awareness of the Green economy.

According to the Economist, (September 2020), a return to the “old world” post covid19 is unlikely. ‘Power in the 21st Century’ article, claims that as the public, governments and investors wake up to climate change, the clean – energy industry is gaining momentum.  As an overview of the new energy system emerges, we have to examine the implications of education and skills development. Taking into consideration, professions related to renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.

In the ORT network, there are schools which incorporate programmes preparing youth towards this transformation. For example, Lyce’e ORT Strasbourg, offers a course to ensure students develop skills in analyzing and creating technical solutions to deal with issues related to energy, the energy efficiency of systems and their effect on the environment.

Gender biases and inequality have been brought into public attention in various ways, most recently with the #metoo movement.

An interesting finding by NICD-CRAM,(panel survey of South Africans tracking the impact of COVID-19), showed that women were disproportionally affected by the Covid19 crisis. They were more likely than men to lose their jobs, as well as taking a greater share of the additional child care as a result of school closure due to lockdown.

Over the years data has shown that globally, women are paid relatively less than men. I believe that to alter this inequality, we need to consider our curriculum and ways to raise awareness amongst our youth, from earlier on in their schools and career path. At ORT SA, we run coding programmes promoting female participation and raising awareness to IT professions not “only as a profession for male”.

The progress of technology and 5G brought up the advance in generation technologies widening the digital gap even further.
How far technology can take us, can be left to our imagination and the innovators and dreamers amongst us. The more technology evolves, the more the gap between disadvantaged communities to more privileged ones expands. With poor infrastructure, lack of resources and lack of knowledge contributing to this growing gap. 

ORT2Connect campaign calls on people to donate their second hand, unused devices to communities in need.

The ORT Digital Ready for work programme aims to equip the unemployed youth with digital skills required for the digitized workplace. Starting with digital skills (including collaboration skills) from an early stage at school will ensure the youth is equipped with and ready for the ever-changing world of jobs.

Global shutdown and people staying at hone increased the gaming industry. Some say that ‘The Games industry is now bigger than the movie industry worldwide’.  

The available jobs in this industry require various professions; Game designers, animators, writers, video game testers, software developers, computer programmers, audio engineer’s interpreters and translators as well as a technical support specialist. Research shows that to get youth into these professions an early intervention and education needs to be incorporated from an early stage.

Upskilling youth from schooling level, one can ensure that these youth will have a high likelihood of being employable. Online gaming is not for entertainment solely and can be used for educational purposes, gamification in the workplace and social change.

The pandemic has impacted the way we watch our hygiene behavior. In education, the focus has been on physical hygiene, ensuring kids adhere to washing their hands and keeping to healthy manners.

However, increasingly, we realize the importance of keeping checks with the kids’ mental health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, more than 25% of teens ages 13-18 will experience any anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. This seems to be a global phenomenon and the importance of mental health and wellbeing in schools is moreover about developing coping strategies and providing tools.

COVID-19 has been a trigger to transformation in different sectors and industries. The education and skills development sector need to have a discussion on how we adapt and transform the offering so not to become redundant and affronted.

The case for #WFH…Or not

“Is anybody here? Can you hear me? Hello….anybody….” crackling and some hissing sounds finally coming through…”ohhhh Thank G-d”.

This may sound like a séance, trying to communicate with the spirits but it is not. This became part of our 2020 experience of working from home or studying and communicating via any of the virtual platforms, such as Zoom, MS Teams and WebEx.

In a recent management meeting held at our office, after more than six months of not seeing each other, face to face, we felt how grateful we are for the human contact. (Regardless of an exasperating noise from construction outside our window that couldn’t be managed by just muting the microphone). Although productivity was not affected, from working remotely, there was no doubt that so much more can be discussed, explored and even come up with new ideas when we are physically together.

So when listening to experts and webinars dealing with the question of what will the workplace post Covid19 look like, it is no surprise that there are no definite and confident answers.

In a recent event held by ORT SA , Prof Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE at Wits University was the Keynote Speaker for the evening. “The Digital Transformation has been fast tracked due to COVID-19 and our primary function should be to focus on getting businesses online and familiar with the Digital World”.

Covid19 and the lockdown implications have prompt digital transformation in education, medical practices, the justice system and many other industries.  But what will the work place look like?

According to Prof Barry, the definition of a ‘job’, as we know it, will change.  Currently a ‘job’ is defined by the number of hours per day that need to be “filled” with work and an employment contract with one single employer. What he believes working from home did, is the realisation that some tasks can be automated and many can be done from anywhere in the world. He introduced the concept of a “Gig economy” where we no longer have a workplace and we no longer have a “job” but tasks to complete.

I, personally believe, that we should not neglect the possible effect of working remotely on our emotional and social state. Both for introverts that feel comfortable with isolation and for extroverts that get their energy from interaction with people.

Working at home created a false comfort zone. It is quite convenient to be home and not to worry what we wear below the chest and, as it is acceptable to have camera off in virtual meetings, not even to worry about our look.

While the world is dealing with the pandemic, contemplating with various degrees of lockdowns and shutdowns, we should be thankful for the technology that brings us together in computational means. But we also should be careful not to sink into a new routine that can lead to isolation, loneliness and maybe even depression.

Leadership in Covid19 -Clarity

Imagine you have been given a gift of 1000 puzzle pieces, alas, the puzzle pieces came in a box with no picture and you have to guess the final outcome as you assemble the pieces together. This is how many of us felt in light of the uncertainty Covid19 brought with it. Due to constant changes in the state of health indicators and fluctuations in the information provided by authorities, leaders found it extremely difficult to find clarity in the chaos and to lead under these circumstances.

Communicating to your employees, stakeholders and beneficiaries, repeatedly and frequently can help getting the haze out of uncertainty and non-clarity.  

How you communicate is also important. “CHOP the FEAR of uncertainty by Communicating”

Use the CHOP FEAR Mnemonics:

Clear Goals- be clear and convey clarity about the steps ahead, even if you’d be discussing the steps to be taken the next day.

Humility – we are all on the same boat. It is not about “I” or “You”. If a hole occurs on one side of the boat we are all going to sink… Using ‘We’ in communication makes everybody feel in accord with the leader. 

Optimistic yet Realistic- define reality using fact based information and embed optimism and positivity based on past history.

Purpose driven not pressure driven, remind people of “why” the organisation exists and utilise the opportunity of the lack of clarity to bring clarity on the core of your organisation and what keeps it going, especially in crisis like today’s.

……………………

Frequent- things are changing all the times, the more they change the more you communicate. Very important to keep all stakeholders informed continuously on actions you taking to deal with the current situation.

Examine team- be there for your team, address their insecurities and be proactive in seeking them out. Listen to them, be empathetic, contain their anger and fear so you can lead them. Show confidence, not in yourself, but in the team’s ability to get through the crisis.

Authentic- your communication style needs to reflect who you are. What you say and what you do is aligned. Check your body language and tone of voice when communicating. Especially when trying to communicate calm and ease yet your body language shows tension and tightness. 

Repeat – the pandemic threw our mind into stress and worry. Therefore it is recommended (and not a waste of time) to repeat messages you conveyed in the past.

Leadership in times of Covid19

This is the first post of four, based on a talk I gave at the World ORT Educator Forum May 2020 on leadership and management in times of crisis.

Source: Touchbasepro

This post is about the implications of the crisis on people’s mental health and the role of a leader in addressing this challenge.
Feel free to subscribe and follow me in the journey of leadership. Hope you can find it beneficial. Please share your comments, ideas, suggestions and your own stories and experiences.

Source: Founder Institute

Although the Covid19 pandemic is a matter of public physical health  we found ourselves, as  leaders, having to deal with the mental health implications of this crisis.

The lock-down restrictions thrown many into a turmoil of emotions, mostly negative, some even found themselves going through stages of grief. Grieving the loss of freedom, routine, normal life, our coffee at Startbuck with a friend. Learning to accept those loses was part of the process of coping. ‘The strongest survives’. And who is the strongest? The crisis highlighted the need of resilience in leaders.  Resilience is like a roly-poly toy that whenever is pushed, no matter how hard, will always stand up, many times in unpredictable ways.

How do we do that? How do we, as leaders, continue leading when we may be stuck at one of those stages of grief of denial or anger or depression and cannot find ourselves able to stand up?

On a personal level, leaders have to ensure that they start with themselves so that they are able to make decisions and communicate in a calm and relaxed manner.  

  1. Look up for leaders that are ahead of the game. Even observing political leaders that may be stuck on one of the grief stages, is a reminder that we are all human. But there were some shining stars. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa delivered harsh news on restrictions and drastic lockdown in a warm and somehow humoristic ways. The manners in which they communicate during this crisis is something to learn from. 
  2. Reach out to your close network of friends, family and mentors for the mental support needed in this times.  
  3. Utilise the crisis as an opportunity for self-growth. All these courses/ podcasts/ books you kept on postponing due to lack of time. This pandemic and lock-down has given us time. So instead of filling this ‘space’ with non-conscious ‘binging’ on Netflix, utilise it for learning you always wished you’d do ‘if you only had the time’.

On a professional level, there are challenges of leading a team that some may be working from home and others not working, without knowing when they can come back to the office. Use this time to strengthen the organisation’s purpose and values;

  1. Remind yourself and team ‘why we are doing what we are doing’. Use the organisation’s vision and purpose as the “Northern Star’ to guide you through the uncertainty. At ORT SA, we reminded ourselves that ORT, which was established 140 years ago, went through crisis worse than today’s’ and yet it endured and evolved carrying on impacting the lives of people through education.
  2. Re look at your Values. Strong organisation’s values will serve you as anchors at this difficult times. If one of your values is increasing revenue and returns, you may need to review it as you may be setting your team for failure.
  3. Reflect on the organisation mission. What is the organisation doing? is it still relevant? how can the organisation provide solutions to Covid19 challenges? If the organisation is pivoting from the core purpose and changes how and what they are doing, it needs to be reflected in your mission statement. Create a ‘Covid19 Mission Statement’. ORT SA Covid19 Mission statement was the same with the addition of ORT2Connect the unconnected so we can continue fulfilling our mission which is making people employable and creating employment opportunities.

The fear and stress from catching the virus (especially if you are at high risk), fear from losing your job, fear from the unknown. People react differently to fear, some thrive under pressure and create amazing things but some find themselves paralysed without the ability to think, act, work, and make decision.

Be aware of this as a leader and be present. People are looking for leaders, not superheroes. Be the leader for others that you wish that you had.  

Education Crisis Post Covid19

There is no question that the toll of Covid19 and the lock down on the economy, education, and nearly every industry has been heavy. Time will tell how badly.  

While our rights for freedom and education has been jeopardized, it was done to ensure that our rights to health and life are intact. Therefore, we should leave the guidance on the next step of restrictions to the health experts. Those experts have gained their expertise after years of observations, studies, and experience with the ability to analyse the situation better than any of us can. It should be done in a transparent manner, taking into consideration economic and educational needs.

This is why I find it disturbing that experts in the field of education are pointing fingers criticizing decisions made and producing their own guidelines of when and how we should open schools, for example. Rather let’s spend this time finding collaborative solutions for bridging the gap of knowledge and regression in skills due to the absence of schooling in the past two months. If anything, this pandemic emphasised the importance of traditional schooling, especially in disadvantage and poor communities that have no access and infrastructure to enable remote learning. Let’s use our expertise in education and leverage this challenging period and the time we have to work together to find a solution for the benefit of our children.

Oscar Wilde said, “I am not young enough to know everything…” Answers are not found with the young nor with the old but many times they are the product of brain power coming together

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2nd Day Lock down but who’s counting?

Watching the news worldwide on the implications of he COVID19 virus on people’s lives, work, mental health, I”m thankful for waking up healthy and with no symptoms. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, this virus does not discriminate, even not the young ones. Remembering that although we feel we are in a dark, cold and ruthless tunnel, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will persevere.
How does one spends days confined to home without losing their mind? Gaining perspective to the situation at hand. This too shall pass. We might as well do something with the time we have and utilize it to learning new skills, gaining new knowledge, learning a language. With connectivity and access to internet, the sky is the limit at what one can gain from this period.
So, here I am, trying to make the most of the situation, before we know it, the light will appear and we will come out of it stronger.
PG