Sunday, March 2, 2008

Employability through a different lens | relevance of e-skills programs to the local context is crucial

One of the most challenging aspects of doing research with e-skills and employability programs it is precisely the existence of multiple definitions and goals of "employability". It is not possible to look at employability programs through the same lens since it is this same diversity of lenses that brings the variety of contexts and needs in these contexts to life. Each with its own advantages and its own challenges.

In the case of the Foundation Supporting Mathematicians and IT specialists in Warsaw, the advantages in relation to employability is the fact that the city has almost a natural unempl
oyment rate (5% or so). It is a vibrant economy and this vibrancy is reflected in the amount and qualities of jobs available. The key point for this organization is how to provide a bridge between disabled people and the job market. Not easy, not less challenging (remember my post about prejudices against people with disabilities in the labor market) but relevant to the local context and its target group

The work of the Institute for Responsible Business falls under a different category and we need to use a different employability lens to understand and appreciate the contribution an value of the e-skills program towards the economic and social development of the Podlasie region. The IRB provides basic e-skills training programs for seniors and pensioners through 6 community technology centers. Along with this, the IRB offers opportunities for young people to become the trainers of these programs and gain some important skills and experience that can improve the chances of them finding employment once they finish school.

There are many important contributions of a program of this kind, two are particularly innovative and relevant for this discussion:
  1. By engaging young people as trainers for senior or pensioners this program narrows the generational digital divide and foster the feeling among youth of "giving back to their community", it strengthens the feeling of community.
  2. By offering young people the opportunity to gain skills such as team work, group management, culture of responsibility, etc., the program provides a badly needed bridge between students and the labor market. As it will be more evident when I discuss some of the main motivations of students to become volunteer trainers, one of the biggest challenge young people face to find a job is the lack of experience. The IRB volunteer work offers opportunities to build some of these valuable job skills.
Relevance to the local context is one of the most important factors to understand different employability programs.

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