West Central Blogger

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Change is scary....

....but the impact of not changing can be even scarier. That's what participants of the 8th Workforce Solutions Conference, April 18 in Fergus Falls, found out. Futurist Ed Barlow laid the cards on the table:

  • In six years, 70% of today's manufactured goods will be obsolete.
  • Low unemployment, a growing number of jobs and an aging workforce add up to a significant worker shortage.

  • It takes on average seven years to make a curriculum change in public schools.

  • Schools are mandated to teach kids testing skills, not relevant, job-related skills.
Meanwhile, there are so many new things to learn; by 2012 our knowledge will double every year, and by 2010, technological information will double EVERY TWO HOURS. In a nutshell, that means companies, schools, communities, nonprofits--all of us--need to be on our toes, scanning for new information, finding new ways to do things and embracing new technologies. Barlow even suggested we review our strategic plans every 90 days to make sure they're still relevant.

After a two-hour, top-speed presentation, and a stellar panel discussion, participants gathered in small groups to share the three most important things they learned. Topping the list:
  1. Consider three new R's of education: relevance, rigor and relationships. What if education was about gaining skills, not just degree acquisition?
  2. The job is a journey, not a destination: Both employers and employees should have expectations of job growth and skill enhancement.
  3. Accept and adapt to rapid changes: Apathy and Ignorance--those twin specters that have been around forever--are a company's main competition, and what keeps a community poor.
The small groups also brainstormed to come up with one great idea that would make a difference to west central Minnesota. The ideas ranged from developing school-to-work programs that include mentoring and learning soft skills such as customer service, team work and building a good work ethic, to creating a regional culture of collaboration toward a common vision of the future, to finding ways to attract and retain young adults and active retirees in our communities and our workforce.

Barlow concluded by bringing the talk down to a personal level.

"If I call you a week from now--and I've been known to do it--what will you tell me you've done with the information you've learned today?" he challenged the audience. "What new competency do you need to acquire to be a better leader? How different are you now than when we started?"

So, dear reader, how will YOU keep up with change? What new competency will YOU acquire? Sure, change is scary, but standing still in the middle of our fast-flowing highway of life--that's downright deadly.

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