Learning Agility and the 21st Century Work Force

steIn early March I attended and presented at The Georgia Scholarship of STEM Teaching & Learning Conference held at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Participants included educators, students, industry professionals and research institutions who were invited from all USG colleges and universities, private higher education institutions within the state, industry, research institutions, and local area K-12 schools. The conference focused on STEM Initiative whose goals include: promoting K-12 student preparation for and interest in majoring in STEM fields in college; increasing the success of STEM majors in college; and producing more and better science and mathematics teachers for K-12 schools.

I was particularly excited to meet and hear the keynote speaker. Shan 11043252_10206196555535695_2324334824400984796_nCooper is Vice President of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company and General Manager of the company’s Marietta, Ga., facility, (which is also where my husband David has worked for the past 35 years!) She is responsible for the company’s operating locations in Meridian, Miss., and Clarksburg, W.Va. and serves as the company’s Vice President of Business Ethics.

Her keynote was titled “Educating the Future Work Force”. I listened carefully as she shared the difficulties of finding a work force with the skill set needed to design and build some of the world’s most recognizable military aircraft. She stressed the need for technically-educated, employees to sustain the company and industry. She shared that not every employee needs to be an engineer, that Lockheed had welders, aircraft technicians and mechanics making healthy salaries. She shared the difficulty the company had finding 400 employees that could pass the math portion of their application process. She empathized with the profession of teaching that has their game plan changed almost annually, unlike aircraft and security corporations which have five and ten year business plans.

Three key points stood out in her passionate and lively message. She was insistent that students needed these three skills in order to find success in today’s global workplace.

  • Critical Thinking –the ability to apply reasoning and logic to new or unfamiliar ideas, opinions, and situations. 
  • Problem Solving- The process of working through details of a problem to reach a solution.
  • Learning Agility……..hmmm what was the definition of learning agility? (I had to research the exact definition.) The concept of “learning agility” has been used to describe individuals who possess skills such as openness, willingness to learn, and flexibility. In addition, a learning agile person is curious about the world, has a high tolerance for ambiguity, good people skills, vision, and innovation.  In general, learning agility relates to adaptability and willingness to explore the unknown and learn from experiences. (I like this skill!)

As she spoke I couldn’t help but to relate these points to 21st Century Learning Design which is the platform of the Microsoft Innovative Educator program.
Knowledge Construction, Collaboration, Skilled Communication, ICT, Real World Problem Solving and Self-Regulation, tools to help our teachers challenge and guide our students. All involve critical thinking, problem solving and my new personal favorite, learning agility.

Ms..Cooper stressed the need for industry to join together with educators and schools in partnerships. Her belief is that corporations can help guide curriculum improvements by sharing information with educators regarding emerging trends, industry practices and technologies, and skills and competencies needed from future employees.

She ended her keynote by coming out into the audience and answering numerous questions. Once again the passion, commitment and caring of individuals who work in education was evident. Each question centered on the students and how best to serve them. It is always a renewal of spirit to see such fine examples of servant leadership. The combination of the keynote, the conference attendees and sessions renewed my belief that we are steering our ship in the right direction and our students will have the opportunity to be successful in a global environment.

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