Progressive Place

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Leveraging Disadvantaged Digital Natives into the Workforce

In my work in corporate IT and training, I’ve noticed that a vast number of young adults, even many from disadvantaged backgrounds, use technology in their everyday lives in ways that most multiple-degreed fifty-somethings can’t even imagine. I've envisioned a way to help these young people leverage their competitive advantage as “digital natives” into long-term success in the mainstream workforce.

My vision is for an interactive network that provides just-in-time learning, guidance, monitoring, and reinforcement, to help workers and teams stay on-target, on-task, and on-track. This network would reflect and take advantage of the rich and complex cognitive networks that already exist in the minds of digital natives. It is this thinking that makes them fundamentally well-suited to thrive in the twenty-first century.

The Green Collar Workforce is an ideal place to start implementing this network. While Green Collar Jobs are often characterized as re-tooled blue collar jobs, they are far from the “skilled labor” of old. The old model, in which management thinks, plans and directs, while labor carries out their mandates, has had disastrous consequences for our planet and for many of us as workers. Almost too late, we've discovered that the web of life is so intertwined that not even one worker can afford to be out of the loop and unaware of the consequences of one's decisions and actions.

Some short term advantages to a connected workforce of Green Collar Digital Natives include:
- accelerated ramp-up from trainee to skilled worker
- cost-efficient transfer of critical knowledge from aging baby-boomers to new workers
- learning, guidance, and collaboration provided in a familiar, comfortable, and non-threatening format
- expert monitoring and real-time, as-needed intervention, for positive reinforcement, spirit-boosting, and correction
- learning and skill acquisition customized, at little additional cost, to the individual and the work task
- highly efficient work teams, in which members collaborate, share learning and motivation, and build group effectiveness and esprit de corp.

In the long run, a connected workforce will be an always-thinking, always-connected, always-learning collective entity. But, while it may in some ways resemble The Borg in Star Trek - The Next Generation, the individuals in this entity will retain and apply their individuality, visions, and consciences. Such an evolutionary step is imperative, to enable the survival of our species in a complex, delicate, and interconnected world.

To move this concept forward, I need expert input about the problems and opportunities that it might address, as well as about current and planned initiatives with which it might either connect, or conflict. Input is sought from experts in:
- workforce education and performance support technology
- online and mobile tools for learning, work-life, and collaboration
- job training or workforce support for disadvantaged and post-incarceration young adults.

For more on this topic, read the fourth posting before this one, that begins "Performance Support for launching the Green Collar..."


At April 23, 2009 at 7:11 AM, Blogger Michele said...

David, can you say more about what you're picturing? In concept, I agree that the idea of a network of green collar workers is a great one. In practice I'm wondering what you're picturing though--What social media tools would you use? Facebook? Twitter? Set up a Ning network? Would love to hear more about what you're thinking.

At May 5, 2009 at 2:58 PM, Blogger Dr. Chuck Williams said...

Great idea. I'm working with a Philly-based group, NPowerPA, wich is working on a similar is also a part of a workforce development program...


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