The New Role of Business in Global Education

apple-256261_640What can business do for education? For many people, it’s a loaded question, with many people feeling that the business mentality shouldn’t be involved at all in the educational sphere. For example, they might believe that companies always have alternative motives, such as social control. Alternatively, they do not believe that the selfish activities of companies and individuals will ever aspire to the common good.

These perspectives have to be taken seriously, particularly because they are so entrenched in the common psyche.

At the same time, as things stand right now there are serious problems. After all, studies have shown that 60% of bosses say that a lack of skilled labor is holding their companies back, even while a huge portion of the population (about 200 million) can’t find the job they want. This would seem like a natural place for business to step in.

And there wouldn’t be a better time for it. Globally there are more and more people coming up into the middle class, even while technology is changing the educational landscape. For example, it is suddenly becoming possible to not just teach with a teacher in front of the classroom – which can be difficult in remote regions – but also at a distance.

It isn’t just here that we’re seeing technology make a difference, but also in the realm of big data, with such companies as IBM using it to find out how students learn, while others are using it to find out how they can better engage students. If these plans deliver only a small sliver of the promise they hold, then this will be a big difference indeed, with potentially the most difficult courses coming within reach of the vast majority of students.

Moving up the supply chain

It isn’t just here that companies have decided to take steps, either. In India – where the public schooling system is failing millions of students – Godrej group has set out to train up a million young people.

Similarly, CVS Caremark in the US has managed to get a truly impressive rate of return of 179% on a program that looks to recruit welfare recipients into jobs at entry level within the pharmacy industry.

Now the great thing about these kinds of programs is that they actually demonstrate that companies can create positive effects for society, even while they’re looking out to make their own company perform better – thereby showing that the two arms can work together.

And though these two are certainly leading lights in this regard, they are not the only ones. More and more companies around the world are following in their footsteps and making certain that employees are trained up to have the skills that they need.

Companies and societies

Governments and civil leaders are taking notice, with more and more leaders coming together to discuss how companies and societies can best work together to make certain that in this time of tightening belts at least some of the slack is being taken up by private companies. This might not be optimal in some people’s eyes, but it certainly has to be preferable to the world where young people do not get the training and the education they need.

After all, a great deal of today’s unrest in the western world as well as, at least to some extent, in the western world as well as in the Arab countries springs from a large minority of workers who feel that want better futures for themselves and their families than they currently see on the horizon.

This at least in part lead to the Arab spring, which has set off numerous civil wars and not changed many countries for the better. Similarly, in Europe, the dissatisfaction of many workers, who feel they are being disadvantaged, is leading to unrest and unhappiness.

Obviously, this is not a desirable. Not for the young people who feel disadvantaged, not for the societies that are experiencing tension as a result of the dissatisfaction, and not for the companies who are being affected by the unquiet environment.

Companies can look ahead

And so, it is becoming more and more necessary for companies to step in and take steps to make certain the future of their own workforce, as well as society at large, is not endangered by skill shortages and unhappiness. This won’t just be good for them, but will also be good for everybody else.

In other words, this is one of those win-win situations, where everybody benefits as long as the plans are well thought out, the community is consulted and included, and potential resistance is dealt with in an appropriate manner. If that is all done, then this might well be a real feather in the cap of companies and a much-needed polish of capitalism’s credentials – something that it could use in many of the world’s corners, as the backlash against open societies continues.

For this reason, it is vital that we work together to create more such opportunities and programs and that companies everywhere embrace this new philosophy as effectively and as quickly as possible. Otherwise, we might soon be in a situation where we’re closing the barn door when the horse has already bolted.

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