Jiva Technology

Mid-life retraining

Most people think of education as something that happens to you early in life. You get an education, you get a job, you retire, you die. Proponents of education typically encourage students to get a better education at the start on the grounds that it leads to a better job, more money and a comfortable retirement. But increasing longevity is playing havoc with this thinking. If, as seems likely, current school leavers and graduates will be working into their 70’s, will the education and skills they gamer today be of any use in 50 years time. Just to reinforce that point, an 18 year old school leaver this year will likely still be working in 2069. It sounds like science fiction.

With robotics, artificial intelligence and massive medical advances on the near horizon, it frankly seems ridiculous to talk about arming todays school leavers with the skills they will need in the workplace. We have to be honest with each other and start recognising that gaining skills and education will happen at critical points in our lives and careers. Education will still be front loaded, but its not hard to envision a world where it becomes the norm to pick up new skills and new ideas in your mid-40’s, your mid-50’s or even in your mid-60’s. Japan, which in many respects is leading the demographic revolution associated with longevity encourages second careers as a way to stay healthy and engaged with society. The Japanese Government works hard to get over 60’s into work, particularly in community related jobs. In the US, Markle work hard to provide opportunities to re-skill or up-skill where workers find themselves at the sharp end of ¬†automation. Historically, automation has been a problem for blue collar jobs, but as an increasing number of white collar jobs disappear, organisations like Markle help people to build on existing skills, find new marketability in the workplace, becoming in effect ‘new collar’ workers.

These trends will continue, which means organisations like Markle are going to be vital in the future, but above all, we need to re-orient our education systems to normalise re-training, re-skilling or even taking existing skills and re-applying them. It says everything that there isn’t really a word for the latter.

None of us like to admit it, but skills and education have a shelf life. We all know that ten years down the road, most people would struggle to pass the exams they took as an 18 yo or a 21 yo. Experience, a refinement of the skills needed in the workplace and the addition of job related skills means its less important to be able to pass a final set of exams in economics (unless of course you’re an economist), but that should not blind us to the fact that the original flexibility we had as a new recruit disappears over time. The idea of creating specific programmes at our universities and colleges for supplementing our skills is an idea whose time has come. Perhaps its time that university web pages had fewer fresh faces on them to encourage a broader section of the workforce pick up new skills, perhaps its time to create a whole new category of courses, so that undergraduate and graduate programmes were joined by mid-career programmes.

Its time to end the obsession with going to university

The education system in the UK has become so fixated on the need for as many students as possible to go to university, that its becoming a danger to both universities and students alike. Starting with the Blair government, going to university was seen as an unequivocally good thing. Going to university meant more opportunity and higher wages, because in the past, people who went to university typically had higher wages etc. Little thought appears to be given to the fact that this might be true when 10-15% of the population had a university degree, but would it hold true when 50% of the population was going to uni.

Out went a fairly nuanced educational system where people chose from high quality trades qualifications, technical qualifications like HND and HNC and degree qualifications, to a point where schools seem only to talk about degrees as a sign of success. This has to change. Its not only the students who are going to suffer. Excessive student debt for a graduate with qualifications that don’t lead to a high paying job and mirrored by universities who’ve borrowed to expand facilities and growing demand. There is a real danger that we could end up with both students and institutions saddled with un payable debts. A modern economy needs a mixed workforce and a flexible educational system that allows good quality training for trades, technical and degree levels. There have been numerous reports pointing this out, but very little progress. The debacle over learn direct shows just how badly students are being let down. And its not just students, its employers who need people with the right skills to grow their business. The UK consistently fails to train enough doctors, nurses, engineers and computer programmers. It has done for years with out any indication that things will change. Instead, its left to individuals to ‘read the runes’ and head in the right direction. At the age of 18, that’s an incredibly tall order.

Its time for a change.

Science Gallery London

Anything that brings science to life or generates interest in a broader audience has to be a good thing. The scientific community are important in so many ways and its not simply a question of encouraging like minded students to adopt science at school, its about a broader dialogue between science and the general public. Our way of life depends on science, our continued existence will most likely depend on science. So the opening next year of Science Gallery London is an something to look forward to. Blending science, art and technology, the gallery has already started with pop up programmes at other venues before the main gallery gets going next year. Worth a look in my opinion.

Women in Sport

When we think of gender inequality, we usually think in terms of work and in particular pay and opportunity. A case in point being the massive differences in pay between male and female presenters recently disclosed by the BBC. It seems faintly ridiculous that a presenter could be paid differently based on whether they were born a boy or girl. Historically, there have been huge differences in how men and women were treated in sport. The men got the bigger venues, the women were an afterthought. The men got the money, the women, well …

It was only recently that the women’s Boat Race moved to the traditional course from Putney to Mortlake. Similarly, the women’s Tour de France is held on ‘easier’ terrain than the men’s. But the exploits of the England cricket team and the England football team are shaking things up in many regards. At cricket, the men lose in the semi final, then women win the tournament. The Lionesses are currently running roughshod over the opposition at football, the men always lose in the quarter final. At rugby, a big deal was made of the men not losing in New Zealand. Less of the women winning there. But there seems to be a slow shift in attention that comes with success. English women are grabbing headlines based on being successful. People are turning up to watch and the money is beginning to follow. Its hard to ignore success.

Andy Murray has been a brilliant advocate of women in sport by continually correcting reporters who talk as if women’s tennis didn’t exist. But rather than relying on men making space for women in sport, some brilliant female teams are making waves of their own, based on talent and achievement. Long may that continue.

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