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Training and Development

Why Corporations Must Help Lead the Education Charge

Throughout the course of our lives, we encounter numerous types of teachers; siblings, parents, friends, peers, and those who stood in front of the blackboard have framed and shaped our life experiences through education. Humans are, ultimately, an amalgamation of lessons and skills learned from these parties that help guide us through the journey of life. Many argue that we live in a learning economy today, where knowledge and understanding is the most critical resource available at our disposal. This makes the skills and lessons we acquire that much more valuable. The more knowledge we acquire along the way, generally results in greater opportunities throughout our lives.

Learning More Valuable Than Money

The concept of lifelong learning has become so powerful and pervasive that individuals have created entire businesses on providing knowledge through free and easily consumable platforms. EdX and Coursera, massive online open course (MOOCs) providers, are two strong examples of ways that humans can continue learning in an academic setting, even post-collegiately. From instructional videos on YouTube to learning anything from 3rd grade math to multi-variable calculus with the Khan Academy, humans have shown that there is an insatiable thirst for more knowledge. Education is one of the most valuable pieces of currency available to us.

The Widening Skills Gap

In spite of this, when looking at the current state of employment, we find a widening skills gap for jobs in technical industries such as mechanics, healthcare, and technology. For IT, in particular, as technologies become more powerful and advanced each day, the growing skills gap in IT jobs threatens to slow down growth and innovation for the entire industry. Gary Beach, publisher of CIO, notes that the IT skills gap is fundamentally an education gap where workers do not have the proper offerings at their disposal to develop the abilities they need to succeed. Now, more than ever, a basic lack of education is preventing the development of proper IT skills.

Interestingly, it seems that many of these skills are ultimately developed outside work’s formal learning context. A study done by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency on behalf of the Australian government found that for skills related to information and communications technology, many of the advanced skills come from outside of direct experience in the field. Emerging forms of education such as MOOCs have reinforced the trend within the IT sector of self-directed and lifelong learning.

Even in a field as complex as information technology, workers have shown that there is a strong desire to learn outside of the context of their jobs to hone skills necessary for career growth. Given this, with the issue of a skills gap hanging over the industry’s collective head, it seems that there needs to be a wider variety of upskilling opportunities for workers and prospective employees. For innovation to continue at its blistering rate for the entire IT industry, something must change quickly.

Companies Must Step to the Plate

Businesses have always offered an array of trainings for their employees, albeit infrequently and not always pertinent to the skills needed for career growth. Why is it that corporations have long relied on employees to develop additional career-advancing skills on their own through other outlets? As the education revolution unfolds in front of us and individuals engage in greater self-directed learning, it is time for businesses to get off the sidelines and start offering greater educational services for students, graduates, and current employees in the field.

Fierce competition between companies helps drive innovation in the technology space. This is done in part through talented and motivated workers pushing the boundaries every day. Knowing that a competitor is working on a new product or service pushes employees and companies to keep pace or wither away in the wake of change. To keep the whole industry moving forward by closing the skills gap, IT companies must find ways to engage the entire public – not just their own employees – with educational offerings that continue to drive the innovation in the technology battleground. At the end of the day, customers and the general public are those who benefit in the long run as products and services continually improve.

With the resources the IT industry has available for product development and improvement, surely a factor that plays into that is the continuing education of its employees even outside of the office. Investing money in schools to kickstart the learning process, offering in-person classes in local communities, or MOOCs available for free to the public are just some of the ways that companies can join the revolution that is taking place in the education space and start to close the skills gap that threatens to hinder IT innovation.

Technology companies are not exactly known for their amiable nature with one another. But if there is one common goal we can all unite around, it is addressing the skills gap to ensure future success in our industry. Leonardo da Vinci said, “The knowledge of all things is possible,” and the changes we see in education consumption demonstrates individuals’ desire for this level of knowledge. The time is now for us to recognize the importance of lifelong learning for our employees and what type of role we will have moving forward. We can either belabor the skills gap or build a bridge and cross it. The choice is ours.

 

 

Markus Schwartz is Head of SAP Education and Bernd Welz is Head of Solution & Knowledge Packaging

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