Published on 2012/04/09

How iLearn! How iWork! - Getting Educated, Learning Critical Thinking

How iLearn! How iWork! – Getting Educated, Learning Critical Thinking
Critical thinking skills are among the most-desired on today's job market. Luckily, with hard work, they can be taught and learned. Photo by Wonderlane.

Obtaining a four year degree with a formal education is essential to obtain the American dream.  Current Department of Labor Unemployment stats seasonally adjusted for March 2012 show an improving employment trend, but it is misleading.

Unemployment Rates by Education:

  • Bachelor’s Degree or higher: 4.2%
  • Some college or Associate’s Degree: 7.3%
  • High school graduate with no college experience: 8.3%
  • Less than a high school diploma: 13.1%

The question that remains is what can corporate universities do to help those who are capable and want to work, but for whatever reason got left behind and cannot obtain funding for college?

When asked this question, I get many blank stares and long pauses as trainer, educators, HR and learning professionals are obviously unprepared to find an answer to this tough question. As a society, regardless of one’s politics, we will need to deal with this issue — PERIOD, or suffer the consequences regardless of whose fault it is/was. It’s not just a skills gap, but a business readiness gap that is not a prerequisite for most degreed programs.

Last week I gave an illustration of a six page job posting with very specific performance criteria. I got questions asking what the name of the company in the example given was. Actually, there are many professional job postings and recruiters searching for similar characteristics in a shrinking talent pool. I also placed emphasis on company branding and attraction as criteria of recruiting and holding talent when the so-called “A” players are bought up and off the market. One of the hottest qualities sought among the specifics are those with critical thinking skills.

Some misguidedly say critical thinking is an inherited gene or “gift” like a skilled pianist or artist. Others confuse it with IQ, Ego or an elitist qualifier. Actually, according to the research testing and assessment for critical thinkers has been ongoing since 1925 starting with “The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal.” Those mostly in academia have many definitions and curriculum for critical thinking study, but it has now hit mainstream corporate America –big time. You’ll get a huge number of hits on Google searching for “critical thinking”. There is an online testing site at Think Watson to take critical thinking Watson-Glaser II exams.

Data shows 20% to 30% of all people tested from all demographics have achieved critical thinking capabilities, most prominently among degreed men over 50. This capability can be taught and learned, but not easily.

We have known the stats of the demographics mix and generational shifts in the workforce were coming as the baby boomers retirement escalated. The shortage in the pool of qualified candidates with acquired critical thinking skills only received recognition recently. From a bench strength perspective, we have our work cut out for us in America. Recent studies from the Manufacturing Institute and the Manpower Group have found that more than 50% of industry employers, a record high, are struggling to find critical talent.

Having more critical thinkers is essential to our ability as a nation to be competitive in the global market. Other nations are placing more emphasis on their citizens recognizing and learning this capability.

Last week I mentioned the generally accepted and applied learning framework known as the 70-20-10. There is contention in the learning and academic communities regarding the source and validity of that model in the workplace. I don’t accept the percent split either. For more on the subject see the blog for the Chief Learning Officer Group on LinkedIn or at Learning Café.  There is also help at Zotero. I’ll revisit this topic later this year.

Skills, Proficiency, Promises, and Performance Mastery gets you there. That’s HOW iLearn and HOW iWork!

NEXT NEXT WEEK IN How iLearn! How iWork!: The Learning Bridge to Nowhere. Are you on that bridge?

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Readers Comments

Tyrese Banner 2012/04/09 at 11:09 am

Increased critical thinking abilities would also, I think, increase the self-recognition of skills for students.

If students are thinking critically about their own experiences and learning, they may be able to identify specific and niched skills that they learned and will be able to market those to employers, setting themselves apart from the pack

Mike Hammer 2012/04/30 at 1:46 pm

Excellent point Tyrese. That’s why several firms give every new hire the Watson-Glaser II exam to deterimine if and how much critical thinking skills their new hires may have.

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