IAN FERGUSON: How to bridge the divide between work and school and SCJ


Ian Ferguson

The concept of businesses working with schools is certainly not new. Many have reached out through public and private sector-organised initiatives to engage students more meaningfully in the world of enterprise.

The data shared by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology this week on BGCSE and BJC exam results reminds us all that we must be fully engaged in providing students and the education system with more support. Our students appear to be progressively spiralling downwards in their readiness for the world of work and life.

Greater effort must be placed on ensuring that the school curriculum meets current corporate demands, and that students leaving high school can perform to standard. The question in front of us all is how can we bridge this glaring divide?

In today’s economy, companies increasingly compete on innovation. They are in a constant state of improving, adapting and reinventing themselves, which requires a larger number of workers who can drive innovation. In this environment, employees at every level find themselves in a race against routine work. They must now have the innovation skills necessary to work in teams, think critically, solve problems and drive solutions.

At the same time, there is a growing interest in preparing students by strengthening career and technical education programmes, plus expanding access to work-based learning opportunities. These experiences, however, may reflect the needs of the past rather than the workforce of the future.

Today’s workforce, for example, requires individuals to work as members of diverse teams and across multiple job functions. It is not enough to possess a narrow skill set. Workers need breadth and depth in terms of knowledge and skills to be effective team members and drive innovation across the company. Yet our current models for education instruction and work-based learning experiences often reinforce occupational silos instead of breaking them down.

We need a new approach to preparing our future workforce that better reflects the modern organisation of work and addresses the limitations of scaling work-based learning. Here are a few thoughts that can be considered as we begin this new school year:

Careers information: Many schools welcome the opportunity to have outside speakers talk to their students about career options. Volunteer your team to participate in Tourism Day, World Health Day, Career Week and other special events that encourage collaboration towards learning.

Work experience opportunities: Nothing beats a structured programme of learning where students get to perform real tasks in the work space. Avoid giving them menial administrative jobs, and allow them to immerse themselves in the heavy lifting under safe and careful mentorship.

Provide curriculum materials: Eradicating the divide requires an ongoing sharing of current workplace expectations. Let them see last year’s financials, marketing strategy, communications platform, latest software and anything that will enhance the learning process.

Funding: Nothing advances the learning process than a good chunk of cash. Schools and students always need money to purchase the newest and latest. Anything we can do to help our children keep up with the rest of the developing world is worth our effort.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organisations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@ coralwave.com.


JackArawak 7 months, 1 week ago

Honestly I think we need to go back to basics first. I'm fairly certain I have read that a number of students "graduate" but are essentially illiterate. Teach reading, writing and arithmetic only, until 6th grade or so, so the kids are extremely proficient in these subjects, and then you can introduce them to a broader curriculum. And teach them how to grow food. That's an essential life skill as well.


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