London’s riots: preventing the next one

Never beforecanal boat in snow and ice have our work skills needed renewing so frequently. Only a century ago you could do exactly the same work your parents did; if they worked on a narrowboat, so could you. That is no longer true, and even less true for our children. Does your work today require a very different set of skills to your first job? Mine certainly does!

This rapid, frequent obsolescence of knowledge and skills has been unsettling enough for those in mid-career. It’s even faster and more unsettling for people at the start of their working lives. Add to this mix the recent recession, and the impact this has had all the way down the line, giving you our unprecedentedly high levels of unemployment, and even higher levels of under-employment. (Up to 80% inside some companies!)

Business, whether big or small,  pure for-profit or not is already strong at training their people, and getting stronger. I believe they also have a responsibility, as the dominant institution on the planet, to use this strength  beyond their employees, and train in the community that supports their employees.

Business has become, in this last half century, the most powerful institution on the planet. The dominant institution in any society needs to take responsibility for the whole…

– Willis W. Harman, August 1990

The Anglo-American AIDS programme in South Africa was declared the best on the planet in 2009 by the GBC (Global Business Coalition against AIDS). It won this award because the programme gives free diagnosis and treatment to the immediate community around the employees. Anglo learnt, through trial and error, that a programme for employees, but tackling a disease affecting the whole family, would only work for their employees if Anglo extended the programme to the families.

The same applies to tackling the unemployment that has contributed to the riots. Unemployment that can be addressed by (re-)training people for work in new, growing jobs. But this skills gap in the community is the same skills gap seen inside business. And just as Anglo realised with AIDS, to close the skills gap in business we must also close the skills gap in the community.

But should business get involved in closing the community level skills gap? I believe yes. Long term it is win-win, and there really is no other choice. Business needs to drive continuous professional development in the communities around their employees as much as they do internally for their employees. And do this in partnership with government.

The good news is, the capability to make retraining fast, focused and affordable is emerging. Just the same methods we’re using inside organisations to retrain, and increase employee engagement. Maximising training transfer, and hence learning RoI via Transferlogix together with e-learning, e-reference, action learning etc.

We in tetraLD have been actively supporting this from our very beginnings, for example delivering learning programmes for AIESEC, the EBBF, and others. How about you and your organisation? What are you doing?

And for those who are already active, what else could you be doing to get the most return from your investment? And who should you be doing it with to get the most impact?

Addendum: Have just read this interesting article, that we are in the ‘last chance saloon’, to do something about this. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14567422

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