Ideas, Insights and Rambles.

A blog by Lindsey Fair

Who's job is it, really?

Let's start with a quick history lesson:

2005 > Conference Board of Canada announces a significant skills gap among recent graduates. Establishes a list of transferrable skill competencies graduates will need for the future of work (numeracy, communication, critical thinking and problem-solving, information management, interpersonal, and personal skills). This report also suggested that it would be essential to develop a tool to measure these skills as they develop.

2013 > James Stuckey and Daniel Munro from the Conference Board of Canada produce a report "The Need to Make Skills Work: The Cost of Ontario's Skills Gap" and suggests that in the decade since the last report that the skill gap has increased not decreased. They outline the 'essential' skills list: critical and problem solving, communication, literacy, teamwork, information technology, continuous learning and numeracy. They suggest that various stakeholders play a role in developing these skills, with many post-secondary institutions doing the heavy lifting through experiential and work-integrated learning. This paper had calls to action for each stakeholder group, but in particular, it suggested that the government create a better mechanism for reporting and sharing clear, comprehensive skill requirements.

2013 > My MBA thesis/MRE responds to Stuckey and Munro's paper in an effort to understand the role industry has in developing these skills in the next generation of workers. My research, 'An employer's perspective on teaching essential employability skills,' found that the underlying problem was that the deficit of skill might stem from a mismatch in understanding essential skills and ultimately responsible for teaching them. It also posed the question of whether these skills are even teachable or perhaps learned through extensive experience not possible in the educational system that existed then.

2020 > Conference Board of Canada releases a new study, "The Future Is Social and Emotional: Summary for Executives." They identified that the skills most important for the future of work are: communication, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, resiliency, cultural competence. This report highlighted that the problems lie in the lack of reporting, measuring, and understanding the required workforce's skills. Like the previous reports, this one places a lot of emphasis on post-secondary institutions as a significant facilitator in developing the required skills.

Now that the history lesson is over, can you see the trend? The skills (required, essential, transferable - whatever you want to call them) haven't changed in nearly two decades. The problem of needing understanding and measurement tools hasn't changed; the primary stakeholder in each scenario (minus my thesis) is post-secondary institutions each time. So, what's our hold up? Why haven't we figured this out yet? Perhaps because we need to change our stakeholder focus? Perhaps it is a shared responsibility of many - not just post-secondary institutions. Perhaps our assessment tools will measure this in real-time, and we will better implement tools to be agile in response (not wait for the next report).


Work-integrated learning is coming of age now, but what does it mean? A semester of co-op doesn't seem overly promising in developing resilience all on its own. An outward bound course would probably do that better, to be honest. Perhaps, the education of the future doesn't look like a school. Perhaps, school in the future provides just-in-time education woven throughout your work. School, and credentials, should be perhaps tied to these unchanged skills - almost like what the old finishing schools taught, and the employer can teach the on-the-job skills like doing a spreadsheet. So many questions, but we need to start making some headway - or, to be honest, stop producing another report that says the same thing.

Last thought - what happened to numeracy? Apparently, it's not needed anymore. Numbers are going the way of cursive now, I guess.