With writing partner and friend, Dr. Nina Morel, of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, I recently helped pen an ATD (formerly ASTD) article on the growing interest by the learning community in
Competency Based Educating
(CBE). Our article,
Lipscomb University Has Stepped Up Its Effort to Prepare Students for the World of Work
just appeared in last month's online ATD magazine.
While higher education has not been OSI's primary target market, I've long been interested in helping bridge the gap between industry and education. Reflection on my own dual career trajectories has sparked this interest. In sum, I was (ostensibly) prepared for two very different roles, in two very different careers, by two very different institutions. My first career began by earning a B.S. in Marine Engineering from the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. This very technical degree provided the content knowledge needed to serve in the Coast Guard (especially at sea), and the training as a cadet that went with it (earning me a Commission as an Ensign in the US Coast Guard) was my preparation for a career as a Coast Guard officer (leader). After serving my obligatory 5 years of active duty in the Coast Guard, I re-tooled myself as an industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologist by getting an M.S. in Applied Psychology from San Diego State University. This graduate degree provided a deep understanding of the content of I/O psychology as I launched into a career as an internal, and then external I/O consultant. Now in 2017, looking back on my 27 year career in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve (I retired as a Captain in 1993), and my 40 year career as an I/O psychologist, I can honestly say that BOTH academic institutions fell short in my preparation by OVER emphasizing the importance of content and UNDER emphasizing the importance of the absolutely essential "soft" skills that truly differentiate high performers. The CBE movement seeks to remedy that shortfall by marrying what organizations know about competence (e.g., competency models) with classic academic curriculums. Our
uses Lipscomb University to illustrate the point.
This shift in emphasis by higher education is now more important than ever as the pace of change accelerates and many degrees must come with a "use by" date as they face obsolescence in years, not decades. Soon, maybe the MOST important learning institutions of higher education may pass on is how, what, and where to learn quickly to stay relevant and employable. A second focus might be to better prepare college graduates to successfully handle the inevitable changes that accelerating technology and global challenges will bring. We are in jeopardy of being overwhelmed by complexity and change. Colleges and universities can help.