The traditional education-to-employment model assumes that one attends school from K-12, goes directly to college, and then out into the workforce. The reality is, times are changing and we are now in the midst of what many are calling an education crisis. So the question is — what do we do about it?
In their recently released white paper, The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm, Shelly Alcorn and Elizabeth Weaver Engel attempt to answer this question by highlighting the education-to-employment gap that now exists and by making a case for how associations can help bridge this gap.
Shelly, principal in Alcorn Associates Management Consulting has about two and half decades of experience in the nonprofit sector under her belt, specializing in trade associations and professional societies. Elizabeth is CEO and chief strategist at Spark Consulting with almost two decades of experience in association management. Together, they have set out to challenge associations to assert themselves as “powerful change agents uniquely positioned to contribute to solving this wicked problem”.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with Elizabeth and Shelly about their new white paper, including the advantages associations inherently have in helping to bridge the education-to-employment gap, the tremendous opportunity this gap has created, and advice for associations interested in responding to this new education paradigm.
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00:20 – The program for the Leading Learning Symposium is now available so make sure to check it out. The event, designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development, takes place this year on October 24-25 in Baltimore, Maryland.
01:08 – Thank you to CommPartners, makers of the Elevate Learning platform, for being the sponsor for this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
[01:20] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa interviews Shelly Alcorn and Elizabeth Weaver Engel about their white paper “The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm.”
[02:29] – Introduction to Shelly and Elizabeth.
03:04 – You co-authored an about-to-be-released white paper called The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm. Would you tell us what is the new education paradigm you refer to in the title? Shelly talks about the impact the book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education had on her because it made her look at the critique of higher education and how it’s changing rapidly. She explains how the model for education has changed over the past 15-20 years and that if educational institutions do not adjust to these new realities, they not be able to keep up. She also emphasizes that we need to make sure education is affordable, high-quality, and targeted to the right people at the right time.
06:01- What prompted the two of you to write this white paper and write it now? Elizabeth says the genesis for this was around Dec 2012/Jan 2013 when Shelly, who hosts an Internet show called the Association Forecast, asked her to participate in a broadcast on the topic of Education to employment: Designing a system that works, a global study from the McKinsey Center for Government. This planted a seed for a possible white paper topic and in 2016, she eventually contacted Shelly to co-author it with her.
[09:12] – In the white paper, you outline the “association advantage”—a number of factors that position associations to effectively help bridge the education-to-employment gap. Can you talk about what some of those factors are? Shelly says the first major advantage that associations have is that they have collections of members who are actually doing the jobs that we are trying to educate people to handle. She shares an example to highlight this and explains that careers are moving so fast that it’s the people who are doing the work that really know what’s happening. Associations have an advantage in terms of speed, first-hand insider access and knowledge, as well as experience with certification and credentialing.
[11:09] – A further discussion about the advantage associations have in the area of certification and credentialing. Shelly talks about the crisis post-secondary credentials/degrees are facing in the areas of relevance, accountability, consistency, and portability but points out that we can learn a lot from one another. She also explains the advantages of a non-profit model and emphasizes that the education crisis has positioned associations with an opportunity to demonstrate their value, now more than ever.
[13:48] – Elizabeth adds that another advantage associations have involves the idea of “non-traditional” students. Traditional, higher-ed models make it very challenging, if not impossible, for students to hold jobs. In comparison, associations have always structured learning opportunities around people who are working on a part-time/full-time basis.
[15:55] – Can you say more about how associations and higher-ed/corporations are fitting together to collectively/collaboratively solve the problem of the new education paradigm and the education-to-employment gap? Shelly says it depends on the collective response from the association community as a whole. She talks about how associations need to assert themselves as valuable members in the education community so they are taken more seriously. Post-secondary institutions may be starting to realize that associations have something to say but that associations need to get into the business of saying it.
[18:19] – Shelly explains why associations need to change their model of creating one-off partnerships.
19:59 – Can you share some of the advice you have for how associations that are interested in responding to the new education paradigm should begin? Elizabeth says the first place to start is through our direct connection with employers. She explains that it’s important to start by educating yourself – which includes paying attention to global/universal employment trends and then getting out in the field to talk to employers who are hiring your members. One of the resources they cite when looking at global trends is The Future of Employment from Oxford University, which looks at automation. She discusses how associations need to know what skills will be necessary to prepare for jobs of the future and then build the necessary pathways.
24:58 – Elizabeth adds that associations also need to pay attention to what’s going on with technology, such as microcredentialing and badging (data reported in the Association Learning + Technology Report). She talks about the benefit in thinking about non-degree credentialing even if this is something currently not offered because there may be an opportunity in the future.
27:13 – What did you learn during the process of researching and writing the white paper that most surprised or interested you? Shelly starts by sharing how large the education crisis really is and reveals she was surprised/intrigued by Ubiquity University, a global university that recognizes associations as partners and created a bachelor’s capstone program that reflects this. She says she will be watching them closely.
[29:37] – Elizabeth shares that the biggest thing that opened her eyes is that we tend to think of the educational system as it currently is as the way its always been. However, the system was created which means it can be recreated and that there are all different ways that education can happen. This represents a tremendous opportunity, not just for associations, but for every player involved in the education sphere.
[32:53] – What’s your approach to your own lifelong learning? Shelly talks about her aggressive personal knowledge acquisition strategy which involves taking a broad-based approach to take in information at least 2 hours daily.
[35:49] – Elizabeth shares that she is a voracious reader who reads “outside her lane” to broaden her perspective. She adds that she has made it a point to try/learn something different every year explaining that it is important to feed yourself not only with information, but with experiences.
[39:15] – How to connect with Shelly:
Check out the Association Forecast
[40:08] – How to connect with Elizabeth:
Website and to read Spark blog: www.getmespark.com
[40:54] – Wrap-Up
A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The program is now available so make sure to take a look to learn more about the event.
Thanks again to CommPartners for sponsoring this podcast episode.
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[42:33] – Sign off