The ability of technology to provide an experiential learning platform beyond theoretical constructs is a critical – but not the sole – reason for its growth as a tool in the training environment. It’s also a technical medium we’re familiar with, find easy to use and grasp intuitively.
If technology is not only a more effective, but more accessible, conduit for skills development, then why don’t we mobilise it for the urgent national project of building the skills base of our youth?
You see, this digital competence isn’t just accessible to an elite segment of society; it’s the glue that binds a collective of digital natives, transcending specific classes, backgrounds and cultures. And as I’ve previously suggested, millennials in Africa use digital technology just as intuitively as anyone else in the world.
More than at any other point in our industrial history, therefore, we have the educational infrastructure to realign what is taught in our education systems to the skills required in the modern marketplace.
Because it’s not just a shortage of jobs that’s fuelling the unemployment of six million young people in South Africa. In many areas, our workforce is simply inadequately skilled. So while recent government initiatives are incentivising private business to employ young people – with the most recent YES (Youth Employment Service) campaign aiming to make over one million employment positions available to young workers – we need to ensure that our youths are sufficiently skilled to prosper in the work place. Any solution to getting our youth moving needs to more directly address the underlying skills deficit as well.
With a constantly expanding portfolio of training material used in the workplace on an accessible medium, is there not the potential to scale these applications down into broader learning environments – perhaps even schools – putting more relevant skills into the reach of our nation’s learners? Could the focus of our educational CSI be to tailor derivatives of suitable training material to an educational class experience? Let’s bring welding, assembly, customer service, machine and plant operating and engineering into formal learning streams using the educational technologies that already exist in the corporate world!
Perhaps the classroom required for this type of technical learning looks slightly different to the model that’s been in service, largely unchanged, for over a century. Perhaps these ‘classrooms’ become more decentralised, with companies opening their training facilities, boardrooms, AV equipment and so on to scheduled technical classes?
However if the precise logistics of deploying this new approach to education are to materialise, it will need the support and encouragement of government to enable, formalise and regulate educational streams based around skills acquisition to be successful. With the public and private sector dedicated to mobilising the power of educational technology to improve the possibilities for learning in the classroom, we can begin to build a system where the completion of a schooling stream produces people who are more prepared for the demands of the formal economy, and can be far more quickly and gainfully employed as such.
This is how we can begin to ensure our youth becomes a dividend, not a burden.