Setting the Tone

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

- Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, July 12, 2013

Why Train For Global Employability?

A debate we are having in the company at this time is how to market our courses in the UK, and at the core of it is the course we developed aimed at aspiring undergraduates abroad, titled Global Employability Programme. 

With our initial market research and interactions, we see immediate traction for this course in countries like India and China. This isn't, indeed, a standard employability product: One that advises candidates to be on time for interview and be properly dressed, and help make cosmetic changes to their CVs. There is no stereotyping, as would usually happen with a battery of psychometric tests. It is, in line with our operating mantra, a new generation course, where the learner, a 'talent', must imagine himself/herself as a business. Indeed, the key shift in this view is that the candidate is not a 'product', something which inertly presents itself to buyers, but the 'maker', an enterprise, which juggle with his/her multiple abilities as 'products' to find the right market fit. In essence, we seek to put the candidate in charge and let him know that there is more than one opportunity in the world.

It may sound straightforward, but it isn't: The 'employability skills' are rarely defined by those seeking employment, and mostly by employers, or those training providers who seek to emulate the employers' views. That works in theory, but this means teaching candidates to cower down and fit stereotypes, the 'meek will inherit the earth' view which is so last century. Our alternative is to start from the candidate - s/he isn't the at-your-mercy, desperate, skill-less, job seeker, but an enabled individual who can do stuff and should be chased by the employers instead. Surely, most people tell us that not everyone can be like this. But we represent a different view: In a wasteful society like ours, where the crusts of privilege keep so many away, there are hidden talents everywhere. It is just that we accept the view that smarts are only for the privileged people, and this ensures that one gives up before one gets started. Our challenge is to enable those hidden smarts, with a broad view of what talent means and a framework to intelligently deploy those talents.

Now, we think there is a lot of this in Britain. There are so many students who have been told from the word go that they can not do things, and accepted it as such. But then the generational disconnect is also quite clear: The current generation is taking a hard look at all those 'you can't do it' theories and demanding a fair shot. Our course is about giving them a fair shot, an approach to examine what they have got and how to construct a career around their 'assets, aspirations and market realities', a formula Linkedin's Reid Hoffman uses. We expect candidates to start thinking of themselves as businesses, develop their own business model and create their own brand, all using new technologies, social media and adapting a thoroughly global approach. 

This 'global' bit is what we are having to think about now as we start marketing this in Britain. British teenagers are not interested in 'global', we are told: Surely, a very low proportion of British teenagers actually want to study at a foreign university or think about a 'proper' job abroad. The Middle Class dream is about getting into the property ladder as soon as one gets out of university and gets a job, and 'global' does not really feature in this. On the other hand, a large part of our course deals with global competence, side by side with business planning for oneself: This is about knowing the world, knowing the ways of the world and knowing people around the world. If British students don't care about the world, it will surely seem like a wasted effort.

However, there is also a view, and this is my view as an outsider, that the home-bound view of British students are changing. That had lot to do with the Welfare State, which had done a lot of good to the society but resulted in a decline of the expeditionary spirit. But this is now in irreversible decline, and with the indebtedness of the country, the party on cheap mortgages, the house ownership trap, will have to end some day. So, being agile again, looking for global opportunities, is something a forward-looking graduate must do.

Thousands of Britons emigrate every year, and this will continue to increase. The educators and some parents may want to look inwardly, more in denial than with any realistic alternate plan, and make believe that the students are thinking the same. But the fear of globalisation must be countered with the globalisation uplift, a way of earning the opportunities, and this is where our courses are useful. It is not one of those Level 2 Employability courses paid for by the Government, but one which will serve those trying to take charge of their lives and make a difference. 

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