“We have to teach students how to learn and how to constantly grow… it isn’t about getting one type of credential because they will be learning for the rest of their lives.”
~ Rashid Davis, Founder, P-TECH [Innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college and career.]
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with 42 students of the first batch of the P-TECH program in Singapore, talking to them about skills and motivation . These students, aged between 16 – 24, were from The Institute of Technical Education (ITE), and will be spending the next six years learning the fundamentals of applied science, engineering, computers along with skills and knowledge they need to step easily into high-growth, ‘new collar’ jobs with IBM and our education partners.
Power Skills + Soft Skills = Self-actualization skills
What really struck me was how the students were particularly enthused and encouraged after listening to my experiences on how I faced and overcame failures by displaying what I call ‘Power Skills’ – skills that are fundamental to all of us managing challenges in our life – personal and professional and course correcting in a world that is changing so fast:
Grit – passion and perseverance toward a long-term goal. People who are gritty keep doing a thing until they have mastered it (and even then they continue to practice). I don’t know about you, but this is someone I want as part of a team – someone who isn’t happy with the status quo, doesn’t give up and keeps working to get better and better – taking on board that challenging feedback!
My boss at Arrow, Steve Kaufman was instrumental to my amazing journey from Head of Marketing Europe to President, APAC. He had 100% belief in me and could see that I had grit; that I’ll keep going until I’ve mastered something.
Resiliency – ability to take a knock, pick yourself up and keep on going. Those who thrive acknowledge the challenge and spend more time looking for solutions than complaining about the problem
Having lost my father as a child, I nurtured the belief that time would heal everything and this was the beginning of my journey to learning about resiliency. I developed and maintained a positive outlook, believed that things could only get better from here onward and worked to make everyday as full and meaningful as my last.
Growth Mindset – this is about never saying something can’t be done. It’s about taking risks and seeing failure as an opportunity to learn rather than something to be scared of
One of the things that attracted me to IBM was the opportunity to be at the center of innovation in emerging technologies like AI, Cloud and Cognitive that are changing the world. Every day I learn something new and commit to staying ahead. As a lifelong advocate of continuous learning, I’ve never feared embracing opportunities that put me in situations which may not be very comfortable.
I think listening to my anecdotes helped boost their confidence in knowing that people who are now senior business leaders were once junior and made mistakes too; many many in my case! My message to them was clear – they have the potential to seize opportunities, look beyond pitfalls and become leaders who embrace vulnerability as a measure of courage.
While we all gear up to develop hard skills and tech skills to understand how we can leverage AI and work together as Man and Machine, what we bring to the table that a machine can’t – are soft skills – and that makes us uniquely human. These soft skills, Creativity, Persuasion, Collaboration, Adaptability and Time Management being the top 5 according to a recent LinkedIn skills survey, coupled with hard skills like software development and the Power Skills I’ve just talked about will be critical to a student’s success in tomorrow’s world of work.
IBM and P-TECH
To address the current skills gap and meet future skills requirement, IBM has recognized that emerging technologies like Augmented Intelligence are transforming the world of work and has in the last year launched P-TECH programs in Korea and Singapore, the Philippines and New Zealand. IBM has also invested heavily in the training of over 2 lakh female students in STEM in India through significant collaborations with the Government of India and Indian universities.
Through both of these programs, IBM is equipping students with skills of the future – helping drive the economy of the next decade.
While IBM as an organization has been leading efforts in this space and continues to forge partnerships with governments, schools, and universities to train students and help them secure ‘New Collar’ jobs that harness their skills, it is also our individual responsibility to ensure we mentor the youth in these important areas of soft skills and power skills.