FROM THE EDITOR: This "Comments" section contains an essay by Donna Dare that addresses the limited connections between education and human resource development (HRD). Dare suggests that "preventive" approaches to HRD can lead to better relationships between education and the private sector and can improve the preparation of students for the workplace of tomorrow. Responses to this or previous "Comments" essays are encouraged. Instructions for authors are provided in the "Bits & Pieces" section of each issue of the Journal.
Education and Human Resource Development: A Strategic Collaboration
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Education is Human Resource Development (HRD). Although this equation indicates that both sides are equal in function and value, neither education nor HRD effectively embraces the other. Education works as a self-contained system that strives to provide skills and knowledge to youth, while HRD is viewed as a corporate function. However, a strategic blend of HRD and education would enhance the effectiveness of both systems and move us toward resolving the dual problem of reforming our beleaguered educational system and restructuring HRD programs. The end result might well be the development of more effective and efficient workers for the work place of tomorrow.
While the problems of these two systems may at first seem to be dissociate, they begin to intersect as businesses search for potential employees to meet their work force demands and our students prepare to enter the work place. Much to the dismay of educators and employers alike, the intersection of education and business presently looks more like a catastrophic pile-up than an organized, well-regulated place of transition.
Employers continually cry for skilled and knowledgeable workers; however, our educational system, because of the new and increasingly complex demands being placed upon it, is not adequately preparing young people to enter the work force. Organizations are simultaneously experiencing increased demands to provide employees at all levels with adequate training, yet corporations continue to take a reactive approach to training their workers. A more preventive approach to the corporate HRD dilemma may enable these organizations to move toward more effective overall management of their human resources. Intervening early in the HRD process through joint efforts with educators will address the short- and long-term needs of both educators and the world of work.
The Advantages of a Preventive Approach to HRD
Korth comes close to identifying the issue of preventive approaches to HRD in her article, "The Impact Map: A Versatile Tool to Link HRD with Business Outcomes" (1995), in which she acknowledges the gap between current performance and desired performance. Korth suggests intervention strategies and collaboration as means to improve business outcomes; however, because her analysis is limited to the internal perspective of an organization, it falls short of being a creative solution to the very real problem of how training and development can move toward full-scale support of the desired outcomes of an organization.
The solution may be to look at a highly integrated system of education and HRD, one that is preventive in approach and strategic in nature. Such an integrated system should be based on appropriate career-related goals and project a systematic continuum of learning, staged for opportunities for school- and work-based learning at appropriate levels of maturity. Expanding HRD to include preventive efforts with young learners will, at the very least, increase the pool of employees who are better prepared to enter the work force. Preventive HRD could simultaneously benefit the development of the individual (i.e., student, future employee), the development of the organization (i.e.,the participating business, industry, corporation, agency), and the development of our troubled educational system.
The Advantage for the Individual
Collaboration between education and business can provide students with a variety of relevant learning opportunities, such as (a) field trips to reinforce classroom activities and move younger students from a general to a more applied knowledge base; (b) career days and speakers bureaus at both elementary and middle school levels; and (c) focused career days at the middle school level to inform students about available jobs and the requisite skills and credentials. Job shadowing in high school would continue the progression toward attaining vital career information. These strategies will provide individual students with information that will enable them to make better academic and career choices.
Workplace opportunities directly expose students to the basic work place skills and knowledge required by employers (Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991), including interpersonal skills, competency with information systems and technology, communication and computation skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities. Students who have participated in a variety of strategically planned work-based learning experiences have much greater potential to revolutionize the need for entry-level training and/or remediation, as participating students make the transition from school to work.
In contrast to the school environment where students do English and then do math, tasks in the work place are seldom so distinct. Even if the customer is unseen, organizations demand the ability to meet customer needs or the ability to get along appropriately with a coworker, boss, or other internal customers. Workers seldom function independently and are rarely judged on the quality of their work alone. Even if work-based experiences provide limited exposure to specific technical skill training, students (potential employees) will still gain significant benefit from direct observation of the attitudes and abilities necessary to survive in the world of work.
Any opportunity to simulate the world of work in our educational system will be a tremendous advantage to students who need to know what it takes to function in the work environment. Such experiences could result in a radical difference in the level of worker confidence and a greater understanding of how to use skills and knowledge more appropriately.
The Advantage for the Organization
The autonomous attitude of business and industry is no less isolationistic and impractical than that found in education. Business and industry may view education as the business of educators, and they often fail to see that becoming involved in educating our youth will benefit business as well. The traditional approach has been to hire new trainees on the basis of standardized assessments, and then, in many work environments, provide the new hires with on-the-job training. In the ever more technical and complex work place, demands for training new hires are also increasingly challenging.
Because business and industry typically make training decisions based upon direct impact on the bottom line, it is essential to develop evaluation procedures that clearly indicate the benefit of a preventive approach. Organizations could use control groups to study the types of training that are needed for new hires and the cost of that training. They could also use a strategically progressive structure of work-based learning programs and could project cost estimates for participating in each level. Over time, they could determine the number of employees who return to their organization to work and then compare the cost of training for such employees with the cost of training more traditionally hired trainees.
Business and industry need not take on the business of education-at least not as a primary function. However, they would benefit directly from collaborative efforts with educators that facilitate early work-based learning opportunities and generate an improved pool of future workers. Intervention in education would also significantly improve the image of business and industry as socially responsible organizations that are willing to promote the general welfare in the communities in which they operate.
The Advantage for Education
Technology continues to advance so rapidly that even profitable companies with huge profit margins have difficulty keeping up, even though millions of dollars per year are poured into HRD programs and contingent efforts to develop work force competencies. Education is even more limited in resources. By opening our classrooms and extending them into the community, our educational systems can gain access to state of the art technology and subject matter experts-vital pieces of the educational puzzle if America is to remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Duplicating work place resources in the classroom is unnecessarily costly and redundant and can be avoided if education will collaborate with the community at large. Sharing the burden of educating youth can reform our entire educational system into one that is efficient and effective. The marriage of HRD and education, through preventive approaches, could have a tremendous impact on improving the work force of the future. Strategic work-based learning opportunities offer business and industry and other organizations an opportunity to revolutionize HRD and move training and development into an even more vital role as we move into the twenty-first century.
Dare is a doctoral student, Department of Vocational and Technical Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois
Korth, S. J. (1995). The impact map: A versatile tool to link HRD with business outcomes. In F. Holton (Ed.), Academy of human resource development 1995 Conference (pp. 12-3). Austin, TX: Academy of Human Resource Development.
The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.
Reference Citation: Dare, D. (1996). Education and human resource development: A strategic collaboration. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 33(3), 91-95.