What is the connection between the school crisis, high-tech challenges and the problems of the labor market? What can be done about this, and how does it relate to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals?
* This article was published on CTECH, January 20, 2022.
Schools are collapsing
Crisis in schools is an ongoing problem that did not begin in Covid and will not end when one or another wave passes and students "return to normal."
Education Week describes what a systemic collapse looks like. 40% of senior district administrators in the United States talk about a difficult situation. Despite the relative improvement in conditions, teaching and operating jobs that previously attracted hundreds of interested people remain unanswered or staffed by people with insufficient skills. As a result - teachers spend their breaks on changing classes unattended, serving food at the buffet, or driving the shuttle bus. In dozens of schools, the teaching and maintenance staff shortage caused a temporary closure.
Teachers spend their breaks on serving food or driving the shuttle bus. Photo: Wix
All the reports and testimonies dealing with the education crisis emphasize that this is not the result of Covid. The education crisis developed here long before, but the plague added fuel to the fire. More and more angry, frustrated, and exhausted teachers are finding their way out of the system, widening the already excessive gap between field requirements and the abilities and motivations of schools to fill them. What can we do? Let's take a field that deals with a similar problem - medicine. The gap between supply and demand here, too - is insane. Challenged public medicine, privileged private medicine, and the solutions in this field are sought in the technological world. Millions of startups produce solutions that will bring personal, home-based, customized, automated, artificial intelligence-based medicine to life.
Why does this not happen in the world of learning? How can there be no apparent demand for innovative technological solutions in areas that governments fund in huge sums and first-rate customers are willing to pay considerable fees for? Why is it that no resources are allocated to proper disruptive solutions? And how can it be that there are so few technological players in this unpaved ground, in this blue ocean, that the so-called disruption in ed-tech does not move any needle?
Yael Shafrir, CEO of ReShuffle. Photo: Uri Taub and Ronit Cohen
Employers are scrambling
Meanwhile, on the other side of our ecosystem, an equally severe crisis plagues the world of employment. In the United States it was recently reported that there are 10 million job vacancies, a job departure rate that is the highest since 2000, and a record percentage of companies that improve conditions to attract candidates. Israel is entirely part of the trend now called the Great Resignation. While tech companies and startups are offering job applicants amazing benefits and out-of-the-box perks, vacancies are piled up in front of the rolling eyes of the younger generation. While organizations are doing their best to come up with agendas that will fit the aspirations of their potential employees, these are using their super powerful radar of authenticity telling them the truth behind the sincere efforts. Sorry, they are not interested.
The collapse of the education system is not a theoretical matter or a phenomenon that happens in the void. It produces the reality that employers face every day - a disappointed generation, who does not believe in promises and does not bite on the lures like previous generations. Generation Z is not interested in what previous generations have to offer. Immersed in their screens, they seek balm and escapism. Can they be blamed? Or should we take responsibility for the offer and change not only the details but the entire operating system? They know this system intuitively, and they never agreed to its terms. They won't be a pair of eyeballs (a term from the field of digital marketing that quantifies people's exposure to advertisements), unique users, or just a pawn in the system. They do not want to work in companies that treat them this way and ignore their real needs, now and in the future.
An equally severe crisis plagues the world of employment. Photo: Wix
In the world of employment, people are already beginning to realize that a change is a must. To catch Generation Z’s attention, earn their respect and get them onboard - you have to move from empty promises to clear, immediate, and positive value for them and the world. Successful companies rethink their strategy, commit to goals, take on corporate responsibility and prioritize activities that carry a real impact. Corporates worldwide are embracing the global goals set by the UN General Assembly as part of their new branding and employer branding. These entities understand that this is their only chance of remaining relevant to the younger generation of employees, customers, business and non-business partners. They must move into a new world that is not motivated solely by money making.
Two sides of the same coin
Learning is the beginning of the personal development that will continue in the workplace. Therefore the change in education should start in the deployment of insights produced in the world of employment. To restore the trust of employees and students in the system, we need to readapt the goals of education to the reality of 2022 - in terms of student-system relations; in terms of attention to the individual, whether a teacher or a student; and in terms of the set of values that the education system promotes. Education is not a bubble that needs to be addressed separately, as defined by the United Nations (Objective 4), but rather the first place to implement sustainable development goals as a basis for further implementation in workplaces and institutions.
The connection between the world of studies and work has been there for a long time. Companies like Microsoft and Google integrate their software in schools, startups, and other tech companies, work with academies and generate first customers who will be their ambassadors in their future companies. In higher education - various firms scout for outstanding students to join their team. But note that the primary interest has always been that of the companies. Judging from what’s happening in the world of employment, this picture is about to change. For centuries, the market was dominated by brands, corporations, academies and other institutions - but now it’s becoming a market of students. Institutions that will not change their goals and update their policies will lose their students for ones that do. This is an optimistic message - because it necessarily means change. A dramatic one.
Yael Shafrir is co-founder and CEO of ReShuffle, a self-development platform for teenagers.