My EdStartUp idea, Work&Teach, helps bridge the gap between compulsory education and the workplace, to the benefit of both. After conducting numerous research projects and speaking to hundreds of people about this issue I believe that ‘gap’ is a problem that causes serious pain to many learners, educators and employees (as well as to schools, colleges and employers).
Learners experience this pain in several ways; for instance they may not see the point of learning, struggling to find what is taught, how it is taught and why it is taught to be relevant, engaging or useful. For many students the pressure to acquire academic knowledge, achieve better grades and succeed in exams are short term pains for no apparent gain. This is especially true of those lacking supportive networks, stable home lives or working role models (1.8m UK children live in households where nobody works). The result is that too many young people fail to successfully make the transition from the world of education to the world of work. They find that their education did not prepare them for challenges such as passing a job interview or starting their own business.
Educators also experience the pain caused by this gap. They lack opportunities to learn about the latest workplace practices, to see what skills are in demand or how their subject is relevant to tackling problems. As a result they can struggle to really engage learners, especially those who are more motivated by real-world challenges than learning for learning’s sake. Growing demands on their time mean educators lack the support to really address these issues.
Lastly, employees also feel the pain caused by the gap between education and work. Assuming they have successfully secured a job they often find that they don’t have the knowledge or skills required to make satisfactory progress in their careers. On the one hand their technical and subject knowledge doesn’t seem relevant to the latest challenges and tasks they face, on the other they haven’t developed the skills or competencies needed, for example to solve complex problems in diverse teams. Even if they do manage to both get a job and feel content in their career progression, their engagement and satisfaction with work can ebb, questioning the value they bring and the difference they make.
What causes this gap between the worlds of education and work and has it always been a problem? Sir Ken Robinson famously argues that our education system is a 19th Century ‘sausage factory’ developed to produce good factory workers for a Fordist, industrial economy. I have some sympathy for that view but think the key cause is simply that the nature of work is changing faster than the education system. Technology is speeding the world around us up in many ways and our established institutions (from public services to well-known companies) sometimes struggle to adapt and change. In particular there are limited opportunities for employers and educators to interact, leaving them to work through a complex and increasingly out-dated system of subjects, assessments and qualifications that neither engages nor prepares some learners for the transition to the workplace.
I’m still exploring if I’ve understood this ‘pain’ accurately and would welcome feedback from others as I develop my vision for one small solution.