>Are your grads up to scratch?

>This week, @TheHRD posted a blog entitled Back to school, back to reality. He writes good stuff anyway, and this post was no different. He talked about the “need to reframe the relationship between business and education”, and introduced a term “bonded labour” which I’ve not heard before. It’s an interesting idea centred on ‘bonding’ your new starters – graduates or experienced – to the company for 2 years.

It reminded me of an idea I had some while ago about the need to develop our graduates into effective working individuals quickly. Below is a piece of work I wrote on the topic. Excuse the formality of the writing, it was written as if I was using it to present to the business or indeed an educational institution of sorts. Also this was written July 2009, so the information provided is correct as of then.
This isn’t just an extended Induction programme, it’s a lot more than that.
And I’m a bit up against it today, so I don’t like the format, wording or ‘delivery’ of the below, but I hope you get the idea.

The Problem

The Leitch Report identified that literacy and numeracy skills across the UK are at a poor level for school leavers. Out of 30 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, the UK is 17th on low skills: 5 million adults in the UK lack functional literacy and 17 million adults in the UK have difficulty with numbers.. A recent study by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Professional Development) suggests that employee skills are proportionately lower than needed in terms of general literacy and numeracy ability (“Reflections on the 2008 learning and development survey”). The implications of these reports suggest that the workforce will continue to experience a significant working population who are not able to do tasks such as writing reports, creating spreadsheets, analysing data, or be an active part of organisational policy/change.

These have provided a sharp look at the practices UK institutions choose to enact. In a positive move, schools have the option of allowing students to take a path on the new 14-19 diploma route which is less about passing exams and more about giving students the experiences required to be effective at work. 25% of UK companies are engaged in the Train to Gain scheme and 78% are developing occupational training schemes.

Beyond these initial findings, we then see that there is a direct impact on the skills employers are seeking from new employees. Interpersonal skills are seen by 79% of UK companies as being important, 68% view communication as next in importance. 61% of employers want a broader range of skills from new employees and 90% want increased leadership and management skills. A common argument supporting this upshot of required skills suggests that the current education system is lacking in providing ‘real work’ experiences and skills. Or thought of in a different way, those leaving the world of academics are not able to successfully transfer their skills to a working environment.

I suggest that the current education system in the UK provides ample opportunities to provide the relevant skills necessary for future careers. Support systems are constantly evolving to meet cultural, social, educational, familial needs. The UK education system has been constantly responding to the changing face of the world and allowing many more options for people to choose from to determine the direction of their career. We have seen a move from ‘O’ Levels to CSEs to GCSEs and now an extension to diplomas. Similarly we have seen at graduate levels, courses ranging from ‘traditional’ subjects such as Law, English, Philosophy, Medicine, to including new lines of thinking such as Gaming and Technology, Counselling, and Human Resource Management.

A Solution

I propose a course of action to provide graduates completing a degree with a 4 week training programme specifically designed to build and develop their skills and giving them the understanding of how to transfer these skills to the workplace. My belief is:

– Graduates will be eager to enter into some further training to support their entry to the workplace
– Prospective employers will be eager to have an influx of graduates who have the required skills that they are seeking

The programme will be titled ‘Certificate in Business Effectiveness’. The programme will be a certified programme recognised by industry that will allow employers to understand that those passing the programme have achieved a desired standard in Business Effectiveness.

The intention of this programme is to provide graduates with the confidence that they are able to enter a work environment with the skills that make a difference.

The 4 weeks would cover topics such as: Objective Setting, Project Management basics, Marketing Principles, Assertiveness skills, Presentations skills, Writing Business Cases, Conflict Management, Business Acumen, Financial Acumen.

The Support

The programme would include support after completion. This would take the form of an online space where students can access materials to help refresh learnings from the programme. There would also be practitioner support. An extra facet to the programme that we would include is to have a mentoring programme with industry practitioners who are willing to mentor those completing the programme.

The Requirements

3 ‘Practitioners’ would be required to teach the course subjects.
At the end of each week, the practitioners complete an assessment (based on the BARS system) on each student. Students must achieve level 4 at the end of the programme in order to pass the programme. At the end of the programme, students receive a certificate acknowledging their successful completion of the course in Business Effectiveness.

Those students who do not achieve Level 4 will only receive acknowledgement that the course was attended in full but the required standard was not achieved.

Regardless of level, each student will receive detailed feedback at the end of each week to enable focused development through the programme. At the end of the programme, each student will receive a complete profile based on their performance during the programme.

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>Diversity is not important

>I’m loosely following an unconference happening with the hashtag #trumanchester on Twitter. This morning’s topic is on Diversity and the usual drivel is being spouted.

“Companies need a diversity policy to ensure everyone is being included.”
“If you don’t have a diverse workforce you don’t get the best results”
“Diversity isn’t just about gender and race but disability, religion, age and sexual orientation. Is your workforce representative of all the above?”

NONSENSE.

I worked for a consultancy who had to deliver to Ford Motor Company (UK) training on Diversity and Dignity at Work. It was mandatory training that all staff had to attend as the company was being regulated by government due to some high profile cases which happened in the 1990’s.

The topic itself is obvious enough for any member of staff. If you say or do something offensive or behave offensively you will get in trouble for it. For HR and legalities such as recruitment it’s vital to know what you can and not do in order to ensure you are being fair to all candidates and staff members.

But enforcing things like ‘Diversity week’ or ‘diversity policies’ or ‘diversity training’ defeats the point massively. If you have members of staff who are making conscious efforts to intentionally offend someone in any manner then you have an issue and it needs to be dealt with. It’s likely they don’t need diversity training, they just need to be sacked.

Look, I get diversity. I trained on the bloody topic for 1 1/2 years and could spout all things discriminatory, positive, direct, indirect, GOQ, and any other technical term. It’s there for good reasons. It’s just used horrifically badly by a lot of folk.

The bottom line is this. If you have to use diversity as a weapon you have not grasped the concept of diversity at all.