Higher Education: To Get a Job or Create a Job?

Frustrated College Student

Photo Credit: Sybren Stüvel

We’ve all seen the writing on the wall. Over 80% of college students think they’re going to college to get a job,

yet over 50% come out and find themselves either unemployed or under-employed (ie: working at Starbucks). What’s going wrong?

Well for starters, plenty.   The world has changed drastically and very quickly, and as is often the case, the largest industries and systems (like Health and Education) are still catching up with these changes. The disruption of every sector means jobs and skill sets are now in a constant state of flux.

Learning is now 24/7, and extends way beyond the years of a formal education, and roughly one third of the US workforce are now freelancers. In addition, careers rarely mean staying with the same employer. Add to the mix the fact that technology is poised to replace up to half of the U.S. workforce in the next decade, and it’s no small wonder that huge systems like education have a lot to catch up with.

While transforming education to meet our current needs may be a more complex subject than first meets the eye, I would offer one suggestion. Rather than training students solely to think about getting a job upon graduation, how about including mandatory intensive courses in higher education to help enable students to create their own jobs?

There are many advantages to fostering and creating a culture of self-reliance, and it may be time to rethink the purpose of higher education and focus on making students more agile. For instance, I would envision marketing 101 to be a requirement for any future part-time or full-time path—including the arts.

While there are a few small project-based entrepreneurial programs now beginning to pop up in universities here and there, many students are now looking outside of higher ed for this kind of experiential training. One of the best examples of this (and perhaps the most ironic) is Startup Weekend Education, a 54 hour event that takes place in over 70 cities worldwide, where people get together to form teams and create products and services to improve education.

In our hometown of Houston, this event is now scheduled and we are openly calling on college students, teachers, designers, entrepreneurs, parents, developers, and anyone who wants to contribute their ideas and skills to find innovative solutions. The participants work together to design for learning, conduct user tests, receive coaching from experienced education designers & industry professionals, and win prizes to help take their ideas to the next level.

The Startup Weekend Education events are spawned by Education Entrepreneurs which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UpGlobal, brought forth by Google for Entrepreneurs and the Kaufman Foundation.

Events like Startup Weekend Education are not just good training in entrepreneurialism for participants, they also offer a deeper opportunity for the community to come together and an opportunity for teachers to further define our purpose as educators.

My hope is that events like Startup Weekend Education will open the door to discussing the benefits of creating a student culture based on entrepreneurialism and how that directly relates to peer and project-based learning, in addition to how a culture of peer learning and personal learning networks can help to kickstart an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At the end of the day, the unique value of Startup Weekend Education is that by participating, you’re learning the stuff you can’t learn in school. Ironically, learning that “stuff” might just help us change that very fact.

 

See Me Speak - SXSWi

A recording of my SXSW Interactive panel session “Higher Education: To Get a Job or Create a Job?” from March 2015 can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/Tkak57WaABk

We Are ALL In the Education Business

In the late 90′s, I finally got my first cellphone. I fought it for years.
Learn to Swim from Peers

Photo Credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

The idea that I would be on the phone during my quiet time or drive time talking (and probably working) did not appeal to me in the least. Sure there were social benefits, but I wanted time to recharge, unplug, meditate, and collect my thoughts.  In short, I wanted down time.  Fast forward to 2014.

Now, it would be almost impossible to live without this device.  Why is that? (Long live down time, rest in peace.)

Ask yourself: have you ever gone a day without your smartphone or mobile device?  If you unplugged from the net and social media, how long would you last–two days perhaps, a week?

Let’s make this a multiple choice question.

With no mobile device, would you feel:

A. Isolated
B. Uninformed
C. Vulnerable
D. All of the above

For many, the answer is D.

In the end, I needed a cellphone because I couldn’t wait to know things any more.  I needed to reach people wherever I was, at times to keep in touch for social reasons, but more often to get things done or grab a quick update from someone to assess and learn what needed to be done next.

As I write this blog, I’m finding it interesting that there are some keywords I just can’t avoid.  This is not for SEO purposes (sorry Google), but rather because I can only describe what I’m saying by using these words and they keep popping up.  Do you see a pattern yet?

The fact is, I can’t talk about connecting with other people without using the words “know” and “learn.” (Well whaddaya know?)  If you think about it (“think”–there’s another one), it’s engrained in our social language.

In fact, I hate to admit it, but it’s no longer just me on the continuous learning bandwagon.  How many times have you seen the word “webinar” in your email box lately?  There sure seem to be a lot of free classes these days.  And how many seminars have you gone to this year?  It seems like a lot of expense to put those on, doesn’t it?

I went to a couple of free business strategy meetings and M&A seminars earlier this year, and I learned a lot.  I’m not being facitious, I really did.  It was a valuable experience, and I couldn’t help being struck by how much they had to educate me in order for me to become their future customer.  And that’s when it hit me:

We are all in the education business now.  Every one of us.

Whether you’re educating your future customers, current customers, peers, co-workers, employees, investors, the press, the general public, or friends and family; if you want to stay relevant, people need to understand what you’re doing, how it works, and why it’s important.  Things are moving too fast for people to pay attention to anything if they don’t understand its value.

I also equate this idea with the reason we received so many questions recently at Lrngo from users wanting to know how to promote their expertise and themselves as speakers; which became the subject of two Lrngo blogs earlier this year.  So many people with expertise wanted to gain speaking experience and promote themselves by giving presentations, webinars and classes on their topics, that we had to dig in and come up with the information.

This trend isn’t as much about 15 minutes of fame as it is about survival of the fittest.  The consultant, service provider or company that doesn’t stay ahead of the curve by educating their target market on why they are needed and what makes them different won’t be around very long.

As we shift to the reputation economy and social media shines the spotlight on the expertise of individuals, the move toward constantly educating and re-educating each other is not likely to subside any time soon.  In the words of Denis Waitley, “<you can> never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.”  You have to stay ahead of the curve.

In late 2014, I finally joined Twitter. I fought it for years. It’s amazing how much you can learn from one sentence.

Follow me on Twitter @davidcbrake

Three Reasons Why

3 fingersWelcome to 2014 everyone!  I know, better late than never. Clearly my New Year’s resolution is NOT to stop procrastinating.

No, instead I’ve decided that this year my New Year’s resolution is to collaborate more often and with more people.

Although I’ve been told that two heads are only better than one when they’re the “right heads,” exponentially speaking, I still believe that you have a better chance of getting the “right heads” if you have more of them.

I also believe that communities solve problems much better together than when everyone goes off and does their own thing, and you never know when a great idea or a new perspective can make all the difference.

Besides, sharing perspectives and information is even more appropriate in our case, given that collaboration and learning from each other is at the heart of both the Lrngo concept and our company culture.

So for this reason, I’ve decided to share a couple of speech excerpts and a bit of writing on what brought us to the conclusion of LRNGO, and why we believe in the learning exchange concept so strongly.

Three Reasons Why

My hope is that these speeches and writings will spark more discussion, debate, thought, awareness, and–wait for it…collaboration.

Feel free to offer your ideas, or even contact us directly if you are inspired to help further discussions on the learning exchange concept.  We would love to hear from you.

Here’s to a great 2014!