Fixing the digital skills gap

Article originally appeared in Thales Learning & Development, Enhance June/July 2015.
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Photo credit: Thales Learning & Development, Enhance June/July 2015.

Industry Expert Q&A

We spoke to Colin Lucas-Mudd, founder and CEO of Scredible, to find out why his technology and education platform is catching people’s attention and talk about the growing digital skills gap.

What does Scredible do?

It helps business professionals acquire information and knowledge. You tell the Scredible app your goals, interests, and areas of expertise, and it looks at the aggregate data on you and others with similar goals. The aggregate data enables the application to deliver content and trend lines that are calculated to be most valuable for any given goal.

The more you use Scredible, the more accurate it gets. It is learning with you, and finding out what you don’t know… but perhaps should.  Ultimately it will predict what you should be learning next in order to attain your professional goals. Unlike news readers that deliver ‘popular’ stories, Scredible returns a deep vein of relevant, validated content from credible sources, helping professionals build their reputation online.

How does this type of app differ from, say,  a MOOC?

MOOCs have been a boon for auto-didactic self-starters and/or the economically disadvantaged. The key problem is that MOOCs, for the most part, simply apply legacy fundamentals using technological tools for delivery—they’ve not improved on traditional classroom education in any way that would make the much-needed difference.  They haven’t solved for the “telling ain’t training” problem – a problem that is amplified for time-crunched professionals.  It doesn’t matter how good the teacher is if the course material isn’t developed around the specific knowledge gaps of the student.

We are at a fascinating point in time when our global culture has reorganised around a new central hub—our mobile phone. And while the MOOC approach can never fill specific holes in a student’s knowledge, an app on a phone, driven by machine learning ‘AI’ that continuously learns from the student, can analyse – just as a great teacher would – what a student doesn’t know and then fill the gaps. This makes the learning quicker and more satisfying.

We are frequently hearing about the growing digital skills gap. What do you think is driving that?

Society is changing at an accelerating pace, as the world population grows and gains access to the cloud and connectivity tools. At the same time it is clear that the desirable and long-term rewarding jobs and careers will require a new, and ever-changing, advanced skillset—a skillset that is failing to keep pace with the knowledge economy—and the need.  In combination, these trends have combined into a volatile cocktail of uncertainty that will continue for our lifespan and beyond.

The only job security and career advancement opportunities in the knowledge economy will come to those who develop critical thinking skills around their field of interest. Skills that will be even more valuable as machine learning and AI take over many “thinking” roles. Unfortunately, in too many instances, governments, universities, and businesses are doing a less than optimal job of closing the gap between yesterday’s dogma and tomorrow’s practical skills requirements. Part of the problem lies with the way governments set the agenda, responding to today’s opinion polls rather than tomorrow’s needs to drive learning and progress.

Society is changing, the world population is growing, and there are fewer and fewer jobs for people to do.Click To Tweet

Are there any particular areas of concern?

Social business and socially equitable business is good business. This message has finally gained a hearing in the boardroom.  Unfortunately, a recent survey by Cap Gemini Consulting found that while 50% of companies see mobile as one of the two most important skills for digital transformation, 80% face a talent shortage there.

And it gets worse. In another survey of U.S. executives, 85% say they are planning Big Data initiatives but only 21% rate their company’s analytics capabilities as “more than adequate.”  Other surveys of top executives in enterprises with 50,000+ employees are even more disconcerting: Only 13% describe their social media efforts as ‘advanced’ and more than 50% say they lack basic social business skills.

It’s time for this to change.

Too much information, or too little knowledge?

tomuchinfo

 

Complaints about information overload have a long history.

“The abundance of information has become a distraction….”

“We’re inundated with content that’s foolish, ignorant, libellous and mad….”

“Can there be no end to it?”

 

These laments came from Ecclesiastes in 930 BC, Seneca in the 1st century AD, and Erasmus in the 16th century when Gutenberg flooded the market with “thousands upon thousands of books.”

But with each explosion in information, there has also been an accompanying surge in transformative new methods for dealing with all the data. Public libraries, universal bibliographies, and encyclopaedias – all transformative, all giving people a way to handle the overload.

And now, again we find ourselves swimming in a tidal wave of information, trying to make sense of it all, looking for new ways of coping, new methods to successfully sift through the terabyte infoglut, a new approach to find what is relevant to us personally.

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