Preparing young people to succeed in the workplace requires a balance of academic work, practical application, and the development of interpersonal skills. We also need to equip students earlier with a better understanding of businesses and how they operate in the global arena.
I see significant value in students gaining practical experience in the workplace. This can be gained through internship programs, for example. One of the best experiences my daughter had was a four-month internship with a local public safety department. This not only informed her about the role of public safety but introduced her to the differences in society, and perhaps most importantly, gave her a deeper understanding of the following key critical skills: communication and language skills, like writing, presentations, dialogue and different languages; the importance of understanding cultural differences and similarities; listening and understanding others points of view; and identifying and solving problems, setting goals, and being accountable.
Rapidly evolving technology and business priorities make it difficult for curricula to keep pace. As business leaders we also have to understand how this impacts our workforce. So what can we do to be more proactive with schools and colleges to prepare students to enter the workplace? Here are a few suggestions:
• Create partnerships with schools and colleges, providing context and influence to shape curricula
• Influence government policy on critical aspects of the curricula
• Encourage student placement in hands-on learning environments where classroom theories are brought to life. For example, internships and job-shadowing opportunities
• Advocate the principle of college students working in industry for a year, ideally abroad, to help consolidate theory and practice, and broaden their global knowledge
I have been very fortunate to work in different countries and cultures and within a number of industries. Businesses around the globe face similar issues of attracting young talent. However, I think some relatively simple changes within the high school curricula could have a big impact on the immediate effectiveness of these young people entering the workplace. Let’s strive to get the balance right by focusing some attention on interpersonal skills, practical experiences, and learning business basics.