Work ethics: Clash of cultures, young vs old?

The UK Times today features an article about school leavers being unable to adapt to  ‘normal’ work environments. School leavers seem to be unable to communicate in an ‘old fashioned way. Companies have to give them ‘de-texting’ lessons so that they can get their messages across in a fashion old fogeys (anyone over the age of 25) can understand. So out goes “? r u” and in comes “Where are you?”.

This might seem a clash between youth and older cultures, but as ‘older’ people tend to be decision makers in companies, it is also a major hurdle to take if you are applying for a job. If you can not convince someone that you are the right person for the job because the other person does not understand your writing, you have a major problem.

Other problems younger people seem to struggle with are the concept of being on time, work in a team and lack of social skills. This is all blamed on the rise of social media, electronic devices and the internet. People now communicate through a machine (We’re a prime example….) and don’t make an effort to get up and talk to people in person.

As levels of youth unemployment are high across Europe it might be time that governments start looking at synchronising youth culture and business expectations/requirements. Teaching in schools has often not changed from the way people’s grandparents were taught and teaching materials are often hopelessly out of date.

A classic example I came across lately was how German was being taught in schools. The expressions used were so out of date with modern German that Germans would not understand what you would be talking about, even if delivered in a faultless manner.

Schools need to start using modern technology and easy to update (via the internet) course materials in order to be in synch with what is going on in real life. Rather than drilling endless lists of words, let students discover a language the natural way, the way Rosetta Stone for instance does. Or allow students to use Apple’s iBook Author.

And why not integrate local businesses in the curriculum? Treating businesses as vile, commercial organisations does not help students get a job as they won’t understand what is required of them. In these harsh economic times companies don’t have the time or the resources to take a blank slate and train young people. They expect people to hit the ground running and to know what they are doing.

It’s all a question of managing expectations and being open to influences from outside.

Both businesses and schools have a long way to go to deliver a final product (read: student) that can easily move from a school to a business environment. The youth unemployment levels in Spain (50%) and the UK (25%) are testament to that.


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