About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The history of training in US companies

The role of education and training in the US correlates to the management practices that have developed over the last century.

In an agricultural economy, labor was divided into small individual pieces. Knowledge of work practices were passed down from expert to novice through the apprenticeship. In the US, the labor movement developed apprenticeships so that the burden of training in a Union shop was carried mostly by the union.

After WWII, however, college education through the GI bill made university affordable to those who would not have been able to attend college before. In addition, technology and the depression made business more mobile and workers were expected to leave their home towns to work in massive manufacturing plants. The need for educated managers created a system in which college educated employees who had skills in reading, writing, computation, critical thinking, problem solving, technology, synthesizing information, and communication were trained throughout the manufacturing process. There are still these management training type of programs in large multinational companies. The key to these programs to develop a generalist that can step into any plant/situation/field and manage. Today, many of these management training programs require a Master degree as the basic skills, especially in critical thinking, synthesizing information and problem solving, are not integrated into the college curriculum until the Master's level.

There was a two prong system, the on-the-job training from the unions and the management training from the corporation. However, as manufacturing became more specialized, more specialized training was needed. This required a higher level of expertise and investment than companies were willing to contribute. At the same time, in the 1970's and 1980's, there was a new model of business developing in which employees were expendable. An employee that did not contribute to the corporation was laid off. In addition, corporations used outside contingent labor to augment their cyclical labor needs. This meant that the burden of training shifted on to the employees. Unions looked to community colleges to train their workers and individual employees looked to the colleges to train them for specialized jobs.

During this time, higher education changed. Majors became more specialized, training a student for a future job. If a student was not able to be employed after receiving a college education, the college was blamed. As a result, college programs, especially those in business and technology, worked closely with businesses in developing specialized curriculums. This was fine when companies were looking for specialists. However, the economy changed in the 1990's with the advent of the internet.

In the 1990's knowledge based companies began to take over the economy, with companies requiring more efficiency and cross training. Teams replaced specialists so that more could be done with less resources. Individuals were expected to be able to learn multiple tasks outside of their specialties. In order to address the training needs, companies developed training departments that worked with traditional and in the 2000's, online methods. The training was perpetual, but specialized training was the responsibility of the individual, usually. This was because companies did not want to invest in an employee's training only to have the employee leave.

On the part of the universities, this was a change in the nature and culture of the university. First, the average student now could include those returning to college after years of experience. No longer was there a clear cut divide between "continuing education" and "day classes". In addition, there was a demand from the students to provide specialized courses they needed to get ahead in their career, which companies were no longer interested in investing.

This brings us up to the current state of training and education. Companies are still expecting colleges and universities to provide the specialized training to students that companies need at any given time. However, I know in my own career, over the last 4 years, my computer mediated communication class has changed drastically in terms of the content I have taught. Four years ago I taught about two and multiple communication. Now I teach about networking. Four years ago I taught about visuals using powerpoint on flickr. Now I teach about video conferencing, video production, interactive visuals, etc... A student who took my course 4 years ago is already irrelevant if all I had taught was content. However, even 4 years ago we were discussing the changes happening because of facebook and linkedin. I taught my students how to teach themselves about new technology and its uses. I focused on technology affordances and the impact of technology. I taught them how to observe trends, generalize best practices, reflect on their work and how to make it better, research new trends, implement new practices, and evaluate and correct those new practices. These are life long learning skills that will allow them to be successful throughout their careers.

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