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Promoting a Learning Culture

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Why skills training can't replace higher education

It is a fact. Modern day colleges, universities and virtually all higher learning facilities do not prepare the work force properly and adequately for the 21st century workplace. No. Change that: these facilities have never truly equipped the work force for the demands that their jobs require on a day-to-day basis.

But what is even more clear is that the educational, practical and theoretical training that these bastions of post high school education do deliver is it prepares the ground of every fertile mind to be ready to learn more. On an on-going basis. 

If the focus at the place of employment is on short term post secondary certification programmes alone or on vocational skills, then it is very clear that this will never take the place of higher learning. 


In a document entitled: “Why Skills Training Can’t Replace Higher Education” George D. Kuh, chancellor professor emeritus of higher education at Indiana University, states: “To make it easier for employers to identify competent workers, a litany of badges, certificates, and the like will purportedly signal proficiency. In some yet-to-be-demonstrated manner, these proxies will then be stacked and sewn together by a trusted entity to warrant conferral of what traditionally has been considered a college degree. Along the way, it’s assumed that learners of any age will independently bring coherence to and cultivate depth of understanding from these various experiences.

“Another narrative is framed by a chorus of CEOs and managers who bemoan that too many job applicants with associate and baccalaureate degrees cannot write coherent paragraphs, clearly explain complex problems, or work effectively with people who differ from themselves. And this is after several years of postsecondary study, not the few weeks or months needed to earn a badge.  At the same time, many business leaders say that they prefer candidates who not only can do today’s work, but who will be able to continue to learn on their own in real time to do tomorrow’s work — jobs that have not yet been invented. Is there a badge or certificate to certify skills for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet!

Of course, short-term vocational skills-based programs are critically important and well suited for many people. This has always been true and will continue to be so. But is this an acceptable policy choice for addressing the demands of the 21 st century workplace and fixing the shortcomings of American higher education at this point?”

If one takes this a step further then it speaks for itself that the learning that is cultivated during the hard yards at a college or a university instills in one a need, want and desire to keep improving, growing. From there that we at Speccon believe that skills training will never replace higher education. Even though the soft skills, workplace training and even mental/motivational training that we supply on line is our bread and butter, it is for us  obvious that these two thought processes run concurrently and one cannot ever replace or supercede the other.  

In a response, Dr. Wally E. Boston  President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Public University System (APUS) wrote: “Like Dr. Kuh, I am unaware of any single institution that has stacked a number of vocational certificates to stitch together the equivalent of a degree, but it will happen one day. Buried in the middle of the piece is his recommendation that we need discourse about what the country needs from our postsecondary system and that we should collaborate with business leaders and educational researchers to re-balance and ground the system. By all indications, the use of artificial intelligence and technology is going to continue to replace expensive jobs. New jobs will be created, but will those offset those lost in terms of numbers and annual compensation?

“We need more Americans to receive the equivalent of a college degree. And we need quality options at a lower cost to them and our government. I look forward to continuing to work toward that goal.”

Here’s Prof Kuh to conclude: “We’ve known for many decades that there are no short cuts to cultivating the habits of the mind and heart that, over time, enable people to deepen their learning, develop resilience, transfer information into action, and creatively juggle and evaluate competing ideas and approaches. These are the kinds of proficiencies and dispositions needed to discover alternative responses to challenges presented by the changing nature of today’s jobs or for work not yet invented. Workplaces, societal institutions, and the world order are only going to get more complicated and challenging to navigate and manage, increasing the need for people with accumulated wisdom, interpersonal and practical competence, and more than a splash of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and altruism.

Indeed speculating about the future and jobs that do not as yet exist makes this a fascinating subject and one that we believe this course examines and explores to the full. 

Speccon, and the role it plays in the sphere of short term vocational training therefore has a duty to interrogate this subject to the full.  We are driven and motivated to promoting a learning culture and this course bears that out. The instruction is one that all levels of management should invest in as it fully explores the difference between graduates and those who have earned their way up and how the two levels of “education” differ, yet make up a powerful work force that is able to be malleable, dynamic and effective in an ever-changing world. 

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Leadership: How to manage your business during Covid-19 Pandemic?

Improve workplace relationships: How to turn negativity into positivity in the workplace.  

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