Hrtechcube Interview with CEO, Institute for Workplace Skills & Innovation – Nicholas Wyman

Nicholas Wyman, CEO, Institute for Workplace Skills & Innovation discusses a series of talent management aspects such as skills, apprenticeship programs, & the COVID-19 impact

1. Tell us about your role in the HRtech industry?
As the CEO of Institute for Workplace Skills & Innovation, my role is to reimagine the workplace and ensure that businesses and entire industries can meet the demands for skilled labor. We do this by designing programs customized for our partners specific skill requirements and offering a combination of centralized recruiting, on-the-job-training, job readiness, blended learning, “new apprenticeships”, mentoring (including knowledge transfer and leadership development), and working across sectors.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
Growing up in Australia, I became discouraged by school in the traditional academic sense and was not a strong student, but I really became interested in hands-on work. I ended up channeling my passion for cooking at my grandmother’s side into an apprentice chef role. I ended up winning an award — national apprentice of the year — then captained a gold-medal winning culinary youth team in Germany. That led me to a role as a fish chef at a Michelin-starred Hotel in London. Later, supervising apprentices let me to a management role in corporate human resources. By age 40, I was ready for university and got a master’s in business administration and studied further at Harvard and the Kennedy School of Government. I created two non-profit organizations in Australia specifically to help skill up young people and help match employers with apprentices and trainees my company would then manage for them. I also set up an international consultancy, IWSI America, to help companies and governments expand skills based careers. And those moves really drove me to share my insights in my 2015 book, Job U: How to find wealth and success by developing the skills companies actually need. I had made the pivot to encourage and support others to consider career and technical education such as apprenticeships and traineeships, rather than regarding it as a second-best career option. Modern apprenticeships programs offer an abundance of benefits to both employers and employees.

3. How do you think technology is changing the HR Sector?
In the age of COVID-19, it can be argued that technology in the HR Sector is more important than ever before.

One of the most crucial technology components of HR Tech currently is online communication. There are new technology platforms that model the best things about an interactive, in-office setting, yet are applied virtually.

For instance, employees need support, new staff need mentoring, and a way to feel part of a team. You can do that with scheduled check-ins on Zoom, and regular, informal communication on Slack. New HR technology has also paced the way for better company videos and online handbooks.

4. What according to you are the skills that companies are actually looking for at present?
Above all, a mastery of digital skills. Covid-19 has expedited the move towards technology-enabled, remote delivery of services. To keep up, prospective candidates should be upgrading digital literacy skills and mastering digital platforms as much as possible.

From there, other skills are often industry specific. For instance, college graduates and folks looking to change careers should be aware of the industries and fields likely to expand and flourish in the COVID-19 job market, as well as the fields that may be less equipped to take on new hires. For instance, one reality the pandemic has brought to the forefront is the need for more investment and training in disease prevention, so there will likely be a growing demand for workers in the public health field, as well as human services and social infrastructure. In addition, COVID-19 will create more opportunities for businesses providing technology and data-driven products and services in areas like supply chain logistics, cloud IT and automation, as businesses seek to develop operating processes and systems which can withstand future crises.

5. How do modern apprenticeship programs contribute to the future of work?
The COVID‑19 crisis has created unprecedented economic upheaval. Millions of Americans are now unemployed or leaving the workforce, entire sectors of the economy have been shuttered and our leaders are warning us to prepare for an extended period of economic uncertainty. But we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to set the stage for the future of work. Apprenticeships and traineeships facilitate a uniquely adaptable skills development model. They give individuals employment certainty and a defined pathway to a qualification and a career. They also offer businesses the security of knowing their employees will receive workplace-relevant training to develop cutting-edge industry skills. As our leaders consider the policy options to best position the country for the post-COVID‑19 economic recovery, it is clear an expanded emphasis on apprenticeship employment and targeted vocational training must be central to any economic and employment recovery strategy.

6. How can remote onboarding and training be simplified further for higher effectiveness?
There are three ways this can be done:
– Implement a mobile microlearning platform like EdApp into training and onboarding processes. EdApp is a microlearning, mobile-first platform with over 50,000 top-quality lessons, contributed by experts on a broad range of subjects. It is designed to help companies of all sizes train and educate staff, using high-quality expert content delivered in bite-sized, targeted lessons for optimal knowledge retention.
– Focus on remote upskilling; forward-thinking employers will make learning new skills a priority for their teams, including tech and digital as well as soft skills. Empower staff to take part in online education and enhance their skills using the bevy of remote learning opportunities that are available.
– Explore virtual modern apprenticeships to build a pipeline of talent with necessary skills. Among the occupations in which virtual apprenticeships have worked well are medical coding, medical transcription, pharmacy techs, cyber technicians, software development and even insurance sales brokers.

7. How significant finding the right candidate is for a successful work culture?
One area in which companies can set themselves apart and create competitive advantage is human capital. A college recently said to me “we hire people for what they know and what they can do – and fire people for who they are.” You can firm you own opinion on that one. What’s important is to grow your own skills within a company, such as by thinking about starting a grass roots training program. That way, a person gets to know and grow in the culture of your company.

8. What is the present status of the skills gap between workforce and demanded work?
Advanced economies are still suffering the consequences of chronic skills gaps: “people without jobs and jobs without people.” We aim to enable individuals and industries find one another. It can be difficult, but it is just so rewarding and renewing when you get it right.

9. How is big data and robotics contributing to the future of apprenticeship?
There is no business on the planet that’s not impacted by technological change. The job skills revolution has begun. We are moving from employers once myopically focused on academic qualifications, to the new world characterized by skills acquisition and talent. Individuals’ attributes, and their ability to adapt and to innovate. A world where vocational education is often the smart choice. Modern Apprenticeship is one solution.

10. How do you prepare for an AI-centric World?
Firstly don’t fear change. Some argue we are already in that world now. Think about how the business model of your industry is likely to be changed by AI. Remember, learn to be flexible and adaptable and accept change. Keep up to date with digital skills and master digital platforms used frequently by your company or areas of interest.

11. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent times?
I recently completed writing a new book I hope to release in early 2021. Americans have been forced to reconsider the fundamentals of how they work and socialize. They’re asking questions such as: When will our lives and jobs return to normal? What will the future of our work look like in an age of accelerated technological change? How do we turn this crisis into opportunity? I hope the book goes some way to answering these questions.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?

I am a great adherent to the old proverb ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ I think you all know that when you are seeking to make an impact, and create meaningful and enduring change, you need to be surrounded by great people.

I have been fortunate to find plenty of willing, motivated and talented people on my team who have helped along the way.

13. What book are you currently reading?
‘Jerusalem’ a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I decided that Covid 19 has presented an opportunity to brush up on my culinary skills. This is not the time to worry about ‘what if’ rather see it as a time to learn new skills, reflect and spend more time on things you enjoy.

14. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
MyShake: it’s an Earthquake early warning app used by people in California. The app collects motion data from my phone’s sensors and uses a patented neural network to determine whether that motion fits the model of an earthquake. I also used Evernote to get organized, as well as XE currency; we live in the age of globalization and technological change, and this is a smart way to be a part of the global economy.

Nicholas Wyman CEO, Institute for Workplace Innovation

Nicholas Wyman is a future work expert, author, speaker and President of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation


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