Designing learning programmes to digitise workers

Recent political events as well as advances in autonomous driving have made me ponder, “how do we reskill all of these people whose jobs have gone or soon will go away?” It’s a concern for me because in Sweden we have recently experienced a huge influx of refugee migrants, which has been politically unpopular with a significant proportion of the electorate. Traditionally, lower-skilled work such as taxi driving has been a way to absorb new migrants as they get established in their new home. Additionally I read about thousands of lower-skilled manufacturing jobs being offshored whilst manufacturers desperately seek engineers and other workers able to operate sophisticated technology. There are a shortage of these people, and a surplus of people who didn’t finish high school. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates “employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.” (2017) Where will the workers to fill these jobs come from? Is it even possible to retool say, a coal miner to be a web developer? This is one subject I am doing independent research on in the next few months.

It turns out it is more than possible to transform a coal miner to be a web developer! I read a case study on a company called BitSource in Tennessee, which hires former coal industry workers. (Thompson, 2017) The founder, Rusty Justice, mentions that miners “are accustomed to deep focus, team play, and working with complex engineering tech.” Deloitte’s outlook expects all workers, including blue-collar ones, need to master soft skills such as “problem solving, creativity, project management, listening, judgment, and decision-making skills.” (2017) Dr. Siemens (2005) also mentions that the impact of technology on our life and work have made deciding what to learn, mentally connecting what we learn to what we already know, finding the best ways to get new information quickly, and cultivating personal knowledge networks the key skills we need to develop. Coding and technical skills are just the beginning!

As a personal project I would like to come up with a framework for remodeling an existing manufacturing employee to translate their existing expertise into a new, digitised role. Additionally guess what, it’s not just technology skills this person will need. They will need to be more autonomous than before, managing their own work and potentially projects. I expect that this type of intervention would include ALL of the learning theories in some capacity in a fully realised Complex Learning Experience. This experience would go in several stages and take years as the learner grows and develops. Here are a few brainstorms:

Behaviourism: an excellent technique for someone who is just getting started with a new skill, say coding, and needs continuous confidence-boosts. This could include gamification e.g. how Khan Academy works.

Constructivism: a mentor or cohort leader who has more experience can guide the learner. These learners usually already use smartphones in their personal lives, how can we build that existing knowledge to generate enthusiasm for building and using technology at work?

Cognitivism: short practica in industry in the type of role the learner could expect to have in the future would be aimed to stimulate self-efficacy and further confidence. Technology naturally organises itself logically into building cognitive “schema.”

Connectivism: leverage the experience the learner already has with social networking platforms as a source of encouragement and help during the learning process, with targeted moderated learning communities.

Andragogy: continuously incorporate reflection on personal experiences and skills the learner already brings to bear. Again, short practica or real-world smaller projects provide the opportunity to immediately use what is learned and make mistakes. Seeing how real-life project work happens gives the learner significant perspective as they return to the classroom.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. (2017, October 24). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer and Information Technology Occupations. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm

Thompson, C. (2017, February 8). The Next New Big Blue Collar Job is Coding. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.wired.com/2017/02/programming-is-the-new-blue-collar-job/

Deloitte. (2017, May). The Connected Worker: Clocking in to the Digital Age. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/consumer-business/deloitte-uk-the-connected-worker-052017.pdf p. 27

Siemens, G. (2004). A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Retrieved December 7, 2017 from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

Source for image:

Davinci Coders. (n.d.). Coding Bootcamps. Retrieved December 14, 2017, from https://www.davincicoders.com/codingblog/2017/2/15/blue-collar-python-coding-bootcamps