America Learns - Imperatives for a New President

I am writing this article in October, 2016. It is aimed at the new President of the United States, who will take office on January 20, 2017. No matter who wins this long campaign, I would like to advocate that Learning (including Workplace Learning and Development) become a key imperative, challenge, and opportunity for the new Administration.

The new President will have a wide range of economic, foreign policy, and domestic issues. Many of them will be contentious and perhaps divided along partisan lines. It would be a delight for the new President to decide to make learning – in all dimensions – one of their signature initiatives.

Let’s explore some of the elements that the new President might include in their “America Learns” program that could be announced at the first State of the Union:

  • Make the United States a Learning Society and Culture! Let’s take the work of Peter Senge and others and apply it on a national level. Explore how every government agency and major corporation would endorse an aggressive Learning Society model in the same way we have looked at going towards a more “Green Society” with energy efficiencies. Imagine the ways in which we might evaluate each organization from the perspective of actively supporting learning activities and culture.
  • Create a National Skills Badging Collaborative! Let’s take “badging” from being the adult version of a “Scouts” Badge to being an accepted, validated, and embraced method for assessing and credentialing the skills of every citizen. In fact, let’s reach out to the Boy and Girl Scouts to help lead the way!
  • UpSkilling and Apprenticeships Radically Expanded! The country needs to build ladders for the vast number of currently employed, but not promotable, citizens in our country. Partnerships among employers, schools, religious institutions, and unions can create a new era of UpSkilling. And, we can build a national commitment to Apprenticeships that would provide pathways for reaching up to new jobs through the combination of learning and experiences, including new stretch assignments for full time workers.
  • Retirees Become Teachers and Mentors: We are retiring tens of thousands seniors who are active, healthy, curious, and who want to stay engaged in valuable work. Why not harness retirees as a force to become teachers, coaches, and mentors on every level - from K-12 to Higher Education to Workforce Learning?! Retirees are prime candidates to expand and enhance the learning resources of our country. Through the use of online video we can even leverage retirees from every retirement community across the land as coaches and homework supporters.
  • Teachers Learn About the Workplace: Our teachers at schools and colleges are the most powerful influencers on students who will enter the workforce in a few years; yet, many teachers have never been employees outside of the world of education. We should create opportunities for teachers to learn and experience the world of work more directly, perhaps during their summer breaks and in other formats.
  • Machine Learning and Adaptive/Responsive Learning Technology: We are on the brink of a significant leap forward in the ability of computer systems, particularly in the cloud, to continually and personally assist each learner with adaptive, responsive, and personalized support. America can take the lead in blending the best of Machine Learning with the power of great teaching, collaborative mentoring, and more.
  • Virtual Reality - Environments of Simulation and Development: Let’s crowdsource a project to radically increase the number of simulations that can be delivered with 4K resolution and immersive engagement across the wide landscape of jobs, roles, and skills. Learning is often driven by a person’s curiosity about a new set of competencies.
  • The President as a Learner: It would be very cool to have the new President sign up for an on-line course and provide feedback/witnessing to the reality of actual life-long learning.
  • Appoint a United States Chief Learning Officer Each Year: Reach out to corporate CLOs, University Faculty, School Teachers, and Administrators to find a U.S. CLO to serve at the White House, interacting with the President on policy and acting as a personal learning advocate.

So often, conversations about learning that happen in Washington, DC immediately turn into funding and revenue fights. However, the new President can approach “America Learns” as a true social and collaborative effort that might push the learning message and commitment as a theme for the coming four years of a new Administration. Yes, America Learns!

Published in CLO Magazine, January 2017

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