Vet retraining model for handling job churn
THE world of work as we know it is changing — rapidly. The “gig economy” and automation are just two phenomena shaping our working future. Jobs are being “unbundled” and tasked out, piecemeal, across the globe. Emerging technologies are changing the ways we interface with our workplaces.
The result of these emerging trends is disruption, transition — and what Finance Minister Bill Morneau has labelled “job churn.”
On job churn, Morneau has asked, “How do we train and retrain people as they move from job to job to job? Because it’s going to happen. We have to accept that.” Morneau is on the money. The ability to quickly retrain and redeploy workers, when either market forces or technology disrupt, will be paramount to Canada succeeding in the economy of the future.
One of the keys to success will be to identify the specific work-related skills of individuals who find themselves in transition and match them to jobs or short-term retraining opportunities. So where should we invest our energies?
We can turn to Canada’s veterans for a positive model for the future.
Programs that are currently being run to assist veterans’ transition to the civilian workforce can offer insight into how we can ease worker transition as changing economic forces confront our workplaces.
Many Canadian soldiers are unable to convert their advanced training into meaningful careers, even though the skill sets and experiences accumulated by soldiers would be highly valued by civilian employers. So how do we get these valuable workers into the Canadian economy? A polytechnic has the answer.
The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) developed a solution at its SITE Centre, which conducts prior learning-related research and assessment activities and turns them into advanced-placement education options. At BCIT, the legion military skills conversion program accelerates and advances the civilian careers of former and current members of the Canadian Forces. They do this by mapping learning outcomes rather than course equivalencies, so that those from non-traditional educational backgrounds are given advanced standing in education and training programs.
The ability to map the existing skills and abilities individuals possess — specifically those that are not backed up by a formal credential — is called Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). Mapping these helps the individual qualify for new education or training opportunities that may not otherwise be open to them.
PLAR also helps these veterans to identify careers that they may not have considered on their own. Once skills have been identified and mapped, equivalent credits can be granted or veterans can be given advanced standing in a program. If they opt to join the civilian workforce, mentorship opportunities are made available and they will have access to tools that match the skills they have to the jobs that are available.
Similar success has been found at Algonquin College. Michael was a 39-year-old who had retired after a successful military career of 15 years and was looking to enter the workforce in a different field. After finding it hard to get a job in the absence of post-secondary credentials, Michael was surprised to learn that he could receive credits for his life experience by using PLAR services offered at Algonquin College. Michael enrolled in the Community and Justice Services diploma program and was able to graduate by receiving credit for almost half the program based on his prior learning and life experiences.
So how can we scale what works well in the veterans’ retraining program to the changes in our economic landscape?
As more individuals face work transition due to the gig economy and automation, we can build workforce resilience and smooth transitions in the workplace by mapping skills and capabilities through the wider use and application of PLAR.
The combination of career navigation and skills assessment can help newcomers, under-represented and disadvantaged groups and older workers find meaningful work. In so doing, Canada’s inclusive growth aspirations can be realized.
Canada’s polytechnics and colleges each already possess the complementary capabilities of skill identification and prior learning assessment and recognition, as well as the ability to deploy time-compressed courses for those looking to retrain. These capabilities, coupled with polytechnics’ tight connections to industry, mean these institutions are an integral asset in the mission to keep workers in the labour market — and our economy moving forward.
A pivoting economy is no small challenge to tackle — workers are displaced and new skill sets need to be acquired. In order to ensure all Canadians are successful in the face of transition, disruption and job churn, we must scale the capabilities our nation already possesses. The success of veterans’ programs is a good model to follow. HERE’S the scenario: late one evening, U.S. President Donald Trump is watching Fox News and a report comes on that North Korea is planning to launch a missile that can reach the United States. (Kim Jong Un’s regime has said it is going to do that one of these days — but only as a test flight landing in the ocean somewhere, not as an attack.)
Trump misunderstands and thinks Pyongyang is going to launch a missile at the United States. After all, there was a graphic with the report that shows the trajectory of the North Korean missile reaching the U.S., and Trump trusts Fox much more than his own intelligence services. So he orders all U.S. strategic forces to go to DEFCON 1: Defence Readiness Condition One — nuclear war is imminent.
The North Koreans spot all the unusual activity in the American forces — leave cancelled in Strategic Air Command, U.S. nuclear subs in port sailing with zero warning leaving part of their crews behind, etc. — and conclude that an American pre-emptive attack is imminent.
The North Koreans go to their own equivalent of DEFCON 1: mobilizing and dispersing their armed forces, evacuating their leadership from the capital to some bunker in the countryside and so on. American intelligence reports all this activity and, this time, Trump actually listens to them. So he orders a disarming strike on all North Korean nuclear weapons and facilities. With U.S. nuclear weapons, of course. Nothing else would do the job.
That’s how the Second Korean War starts.
Not many Americans would be killed — and probably no civilians — because in fact North Korea doesn’t yet have any long-range missiles that can accurately deliver nuclear weapons on the United States, but millions would die in both parts of Korea. With luck, the Chinese would stay out even as their North Korean ally is reduced to rubble, but who knows?
It’s just a scenario, but it’s one that keeps many people awake at night — including many senior people in the U.S. military. That’s why reports have been surfacing recently that the U.S. Secretary of Defence Gen. James Mattis, National Security Adviser Gen. H.R McMaster and Trump’s chief of staff, former general John Kelly, have made a secret pact that all three will never be abroad at the same time.
Why not? Because at least one very senior military officer must always be in the country to monitor orders coming from the White House and countermand them if necessary.
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports, but I believe them. In fact, I was already assuming that some arrangement like that was in place. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly are serious, experienced and professional military officers and it would be a dereliction of duty for them not to ensure that there is always at least one responsible adult between Trump and the nuclear button.
If one of these generals actually found himself in the position of having to stop Trump, he would face an agonizing decision. All his training tells him that he must obey civilian authority, and he will certainly be court-martialled if he disobeys a presidential order. On the other hand, he must not allow millions of human beings to die because of a stupid mistake.
I’m sure they think about it and I doubt that any of them knows which way he would actually jump if the situation arose. Providing adult supervision is a tricky business, especially when the child is technically your superior.
And having said all this, it occurs to me that some senior military officers in North Korea must face the same dilemma. They, too, have a child-man in charge — and they will be all too aware that if “little rocket man,” as Trump calls him, stumbles into a war with the United States, then they, their families and practically everybody they have ever met will be killed.
Their dilemma is even worse, because they serve a petulant god-king who has the power of life and death over them and their families. To stop Kim Jong Un, if he were about to make a fatal mistake, they would have to kill him and accept that they would almost certainly be killed themselves immediately afterward. Would they actually do that? They don’t even know the answer to that themselves, but I‘m sure they think about it.
There is probably not going to be a Second Korean War. Probably neither set of senior officers is ever going to face this ultimate crisis. A subtle form of adult supervision is exercised on a daily basis in both capitals, because even the loosest of loose cannons has to work through other people in order to get his orders turned into actions.
But things have come to a pretty pass when we can have this discussion without sounding crazy.