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Blogs, News - 10 November 2020

Guest Blog: Getting ahead instead of being left behind

From communication skills to robot milking, guest blogger Gareth Metcalf, Director of Assessment and Qualifications, from the AIM Qualifications and Assessment Group discusses how education and industry can work together to prepare workers for the skills needs of the future.

Robotic what??!

Over the last 20-30 years one of the most commonly discussed topics between employers and educators was the need for those entering the workforce to have generic employability skills : time management, communication, teamwork, etc.

And in response, we saw the creation of specific employability skills qualifications, the rise in importance of Functional Skills, and universities being measured on how many of their graduates enter the workplace. And we learned that this works best when the employability skills are taught in the context of the job role alongside the specialist knowledge and skills needed to do the job.

However, whilst educators were busy responding to this challenge, developments in technology are creating a growing problem around how the workforce will remain in work, and what those jobs will look like. In fact, a 2018 survey found that two-thirds of respondents could see their job changing significantly at least every five years because of technological advances . So, we will see skilled, time served job roles being augmented or even replaced by technology.

Like robotic cow milking . But what does this mean for the farmer?

These technological advances don’t predict a future with no human workforce, as with new technology comes new job roles. For example, a 2011 study found that the internet had destroyed 500,000 jobs in France in the previous 15 years—but at the same time had created 1.2 million others, a net addition of 700,000, or 2.4 jobs created for every job destroyed.

For the modern day milk farmer, it might not be as important that he/she has excellent time management skills, or is a great people person, because what matters now is digital skills.

But this is a big problem

And the government know about it, which is why they introduced the essential digital skills framework in 2018 setting out five categories of essential digital skills required to get on in life and work. Unfortunately, the most recent report by Lloyds Bank (in 2020) states that 16% of the UK do not have the foundation level digital skill – the most basic.

And back to us, in education…

And so we go around. Already there are several qualifications in Essential Digital Skills available. And these may well help some of those who have the most to learn, much like the CLAIT qualifications enabled people to operate computers in the office and home. However, we know from our experience with employability skills that embedding these within the delivery of job related skills delivers the best results.

The one constant in education is change. As a teacher, lecturer or trainer, the change comes from all directions; school/college policies, new staff, new priorities and new curriculums to name but a few.

Awarding organisations (exam boards to some) like ours are sometimes at the centre of these changes, releasing updated qualifications, syllabus or assessment methods just when the people delivering those qualifications have got the hang of the previous one.

The thing is, all too often the new version of the qualification is already out of date for a few reasons:

  1. Working in a regulated area like this can mean that development and updating can take time, so by the time a qualification is released and someone has completed it, the technology has already moved on.
  2. The focus of education is often on skills development at the point of entry to a role/career, rather than upskilling those within.
  3. The need to get the right people involved in the development of qualifications: often people move to working in education towards the end of their career.

Is it time to bring in the robots?

Here at AIM we would like to work closer with those new into their careers, who are likely more technologically minded and possibly open to change.

We want to learn from those doing the jobs so we can update and revise our qualifications in a regular and timely fashion. So rather than creating a qualification in Essential Digital Skills, we’ll update our Animal Care qualification with what workers need to know about operating robotic milking machines.

Right now we’re embarking on a project with D2N2 and Inspire to embed digital skills within our Health, Lifestyles and Science qualifications.

We’re not stopping there

We have a wide range of vocational qualifications aimed at getting people into work as well as developing those already in work, so have a vision to embed the required digital skills for the realities of the workplace.

We would love to hear from workers and employers in any industry that are witnessing the evolution of roles brought by technology or can see it on the horizon.

AIM Qualifications and Assessment Group is a leading international organisation offering nationally regulated qualifications and end-point assessments which meet the needs of the learner, employer and provider.

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