While reflecting on our region’s grand challenges and considering how our stakeholders could benefit most, addressing our talent deficit is our single most important pursuit.
The Milwaukee region can differentiate itself by creating a talent engine designed around the next era of innovation, rather than the solitary focus we have had on skills best cultivated for the information age, which began the same year I did, in 1969.
While there is no question that we have a dearth of STEM, digital and data skills inside (and outside) our region, that “talent debt” is a function of our inability to address acute and long-term talent needs in parallel.
In 1990, if you learned a new technical skill, the half-life of that skill’s value was 26 years. Today, that value erodes far faster. When we teach new technical skills today, they have a half-life of 18 months to five years.
Facts like that one and other accelerations related to industries, innovation and societal change indicate that we must create a talent engine that is far more adaptive than the system we have in place today.
Our generational imperative is to create collaborative innovations designed to create human-centric, adaptive networks that train digital and data skills, other career-based skills and human skills. These are the high-cognitive and socio-emotional skills that are highly valued today and for which there is no depreciating half-life. Human skills appreciate, in part, because they enable individuals to learn other new skills more quickly.
It is easy to throw around terms like lifelong learning, but let’s reframe that as the need for continuous self-innovation and long-life learning. People entering the workforce for the first time today will likely have a career spanning 55-70 years. They will have, on average, 17 jobs in five different industries.
No training or education we provide today will satisfy the needs they will encounter during that career, except the ability to learn how to learn and recognize that human beings’ sense of purpose will continually increase in importance in the years to come.
This column is part of “25 big ideas for Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin’s future,” a feature included in the BizTimes Milwaukee 25th anniversary issue. To read other contributions, visit biztimes.com/bigideas