Educating professionals


  • Education
  • Sunday, 03 Nov 2019

Wartoft says learning can be done without taking exams and getting certificates.

AT 15, Tigerhall CEO Nellie Wartoft started her first education venture by teaching senior citizens in her small Swedish town how to use computers and social media.

She rented her school hall and started basic classes for the elderly who didn’t know how to connect with their children and grandchildren.

Classes were full because no one else was offering to teach these skills.

That’s when she realised that being well-educated did not mean having the right knowledge to succeed in today’s age.

Upon graduation, she spent four years in an international recruitment agency where she saw a massive skills gap between formal education and what successful corporate people were actually doing.“When I asked candidates about their life goals, most either say they want an international career, to be a CEO, or to be successful, but they didn’t have anyone to teach them that.

“They’ve been through university and they’ve learnt the theories but it’s completely different in real life.

“A lot of candidates I worked with were in their first or second leadership role. These people are aged between 30 and 35 and reporting to the heads of Southeast Asia or Asia Pacific. But no one was teaching them leadership because the people they’re reporting to just don’t have time for one-to-one coaching or mentoring.”

The education industry, she said, hasn’t changed a bit in the past 200 years.

“Back in the day, students went into classrooms, listened to a teacher and finished the course.

“Learning hasn’t changed. We’ve just put academic content online. The fact that we’re applying technology to the same learning methods just changes how people access that information.”

She thinks the best way to achieve our life and career goals is by learning directly from successful experts in the most convenient way possible.

Learning from people who do is more important that learning from people who know, she said.

Doers, she said, operate in the real world where things aren’t perfect.

“People who know are those who’ve studied the theories of how things would work in a perfect world. But to be able to tackle real world complexities, you need practical, actionable advice.”

Soft skills, leadership, and commercial skills are the main areas where there’s a huge disconnect between academia and industry.

“A lot of times we’re learning from people who are willing to teach but they aren’t necessarily the best people to do it. It’s very important to get your knowledge from the right source, and not just from who’s available, ” she said, adding that learning must also be convenient because of shrinking attention spans.

Everyone is busy and always on-the-go so spending the weekends or after work hours at class to improve themselves, is not feasible. People shouldn’t have to take a career break to learn, she said.

“Like it or not, effective learning must fit into this lifestyle. There are many micro-moments that can be used for lifelong learning.

“We have to make learning easier and more accessible so that the 10 or 15 minutes spent waiting for a train or getting ready for bed everyday can be used to improve ourselves.”

Here’s what she thinks about lifelong learning, managing millennials and why micro-learning platforms are the way forward.

l Is motivation, or discipline, more important for success?

Discipline to me, is a lot more valuable. You’re never going to be in a job where you’re inspired and motivated all the time yet millennials want to leave when they’re not. I love what I do, but there are parts of my job that I don’t like so I focus and discipline myself to do it because I have to. l In the age of digitalisation, big data is the new buzzword even in education. What do you think the sector is going to look like moving forward?

Knowledge is king, now more than ever. Machines make logical decisions but humans make optimal decisions. You can have all the data in the world but you need knowledge to make sense of everything. To make the right decisions, you need to know the industry and what’s happening in the world. There’s still a very clear divide between education and industry. That relationship’s going to get closer. What we’ve been seeing now – which is people studying very hard for three years, and then never learning again for the rest of their lives – needs to change. Education will be about lifelong learning. People should be able to learn consistently all the time, wherever they are in the world. Micro-learning, which is about zooming in on tiny bits and pieces of content that you can pick and choose based on what’s applicable to you right now so that you can apply it straight away, is gaining attention. l What needs to be done differently to train the millennial workforce?

Millennials have a short attention span and they only want instant gratification. We’ve to come up with something short and sweet that fits their lifestyle and personality. They’re always on their mobiles so educational and entertaining apps that engage them is important. People are now looking for ways to switch off social media and bring more learning into that time.l Lifelong learning, re-skilling and up-skilling will keep our workforce relevant. But how do we educate professionals?

Doing a test and getting a certificate doesn’t mean you’ve learned something. Learning can be done without taking exams and getting certificates. Learning is about what we know, not how many certificates we have. The industry is moving so fast that what you learn becomes obsolete by the time you graduate. So we have to make it easier and more convenient for people to learn.l What features should an effective education tool or programme have?

It has to be convenient and actionable. With shorter attention spans, you can’t expect people to be sitting in front of the laptop watching a video for hours. And the content must be such that the learner is able to put it into practice within the next 24 hours. The learner must also have access to industry experts – the doers who are successful and relevant today – because it goes to the credibility of the tool or programme. Also, the content must be tailored to each individual need. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all thing.

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