Content and information have become ever easier to access. At the same time, what is most valuable - inspiration, full skills learning, and real connection - is often hard to find.
The designers of our current education system lived in an industrial age of limited information access. They designed for that age. Now there are new educational opportunities, often with few barriers to entry, that are hacking the old system. Look at Code Academy, where you can interactively learn to code for free. Duolingo, where you can learn foreign languages for free. The hundreds of MOOCs including content from top institutions - again, largely for free. Anyone with tech access [an important caveat] can learn what’s needed to gain the knowledge for career opportunities. These are opportunities for low-income people to leapfrog.
There are more ways to earn a living regardless of geography and degrees than ever before.
The kinds of career opportunities available are also exploding in new directions. The sharing economy, freelancing and technical knowledge are becoming more and more dominant. Powered by organizations like eLance, Taskrabbit and eBay there are more ways to earn a living regardless of geography and degrees than ever before. Even Google doesn’t care about hiring top college graduates. All of these opportunities depend largely on the ability to motivate and brand yourself. Even as an employee of a large organization, your ability to direct your own career is only becoming more important.
Arm low-income people for this new world. Let’s stop educating for widget-building. Instead, here are a few ways to make inspiration, full skills learning, and connection central:
1. Inspiration: Exposure to stories of people who have overcome similar barriers. The path they walked. The hard times that they got through and what got them through.
Low-income people deserve the full skills package.
2. Full Skills: Yes, technical knowledge is important. Knowing how to find new knowledge when you need it is even more important. Given the rate of technical change, whatever content you learn today is outdated soon. On the other hand, when you know how to motivate yourself, update your skills, when to seek help and how to communicate your story - this knowledge will stay with you. Without it, a training or degree where students meet all the learning objectives still falls short. Build these essential leadership skills into every program. Find new ways to certify and show if people have the skills for a job, even when they don’t have a degree. Elevate money management, forming healthy relationships and managing stress to the same level as career skills. Center our economy around creating thriving lives and livelihoods on a sustainable planet - not pure maximization of growth. Without life skills people aren’t as effective at work, and, more importantly, don’t thrive. Low-income people deserve the full skills package.
3. Real Connection: Finally, remember that mentorship and the social power of community solidify learning. Use technology to redefine community and create new networks of support. Focus on making sure that low-income people have what has been always been a true secret of success - the support of someone who believes in you.