Vet re­train­ing model for han­dling job churn

Winnipeg Free Press - - TANK - NOBINA ROBIN­SON

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.

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