I recently participated in a 'Training for the Future’ webinar as part of Raytheon UK’s ‘Defining the Future’ podcast series.

Along with experts from the world of defence and armed forces training, we discussed the key learning challenges faced by our forces now and in the future, what military and industry-based training and learning environments can teach each other, and how armed forces training is being transformed by advances in military-specific technologies.

Undoubtedly the evolving sophistication of military equipment demands a proportionate increase in training requirements, and I particularly enjoyed the discussion around what the military and commercial worlds can teach and learn from each other in closing the skills gaps across both environments.

We discussed at length how innovation will continue to drive success not only at organisational and forces levels, but in lifting the UK out of the Brexit and Covid-related uncertainty we now find ourselves in.

There are 3 core skills gap areas that Capita is seeing across customers and wider industry:

  1. Core business skills – These are the generic all-round business performance skills that have always been essential for commercial development (leadership, management, direction, innovation etc.). Key skills around problem solving and technical thinking remain essential but are often either not being utilised and harnessed correctly, or even missing completely. There is an all too often - and completely incorrect - assumption that these key skills are in some way ‘a given’, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Indeed, real skills around problem solving and creative thinking are often the main barriers to growth across all types of organisations. A big part of the skills gap in industry lies within these fundamentals, and industry must learn what it can from the forces in terms of how key skills are taught and ingrained early, but also nurtured, managed and developed throughout careers. 
  2. Tech skills – Many organisations across the private and public sectors haven’t yet reached the fundamental standards of technological adoption and culture required. They perhaps lack the necessary software and level of digitalisations needed to grow, and this halts real progress. 
  3. Data science – The digital revolution means much more data than ever before is now available in almost real-time. This data needs to not just exist but have real meaning for organisations. Proper and effective management and usage of data is essential, and both industry and the military must be empowered by data and able to analyse it quickly, exactly when and where it is needed.

Covid-19 has obviously impacted every element of the business world, with training being no exception. Although much of the training and learning Capita provides has traditionally been face to face in nature with the presumption of physical delivery, we are now working with many customers to develop their trainers and platforms for remote and virtual audiences, and I cannot overemphasise how different a task and competency this is.

The pandemic was a worry for many Capita customers who must ensure their learners continue to receive both vital training and a great experience. Of course, we’re supported by some incredible technology, but the fact remains that supporting tools are almost obsolete unless instructors develop skills to suit new training, teaching and learning trends.

I have also noticed a dramatic increase in user-generated content (UGC) across industry – and perhaps this is something that will increasingly transfer to the military world over the coming years. Creating content that supports team learning and sharing great individual and collective ideas remains a key MOD challenge. It will be extremely interesting to see to what extent user-generated content is embraced and encouraged in force environments and what platforms, systems, and architecture will be implemented to help reap the same benefits we’re seeing in industry.

Also, in industry, it’s often easier to transfer across multiple roles and even careers in a working life, largely because staff can more freely update their skills, retrain and develop new competencies. Capita is facilitating this with private sector clients by ensuring their learning infrastructures have clearly defined pathways and journeys that lead workers to their desired destinations. It is therefore an environment that allows, embraces and encourages development, and the military can learn from industry approach to transfer career freedom where appropriate.

On the flipside, industry needs look no further than the military for guidance on the proper use of apprenticeships. Our military will absolutely support the UK’s economic and employment recovery from Covid-19 and Brexit, but industry must also make better use of apprenticeship programmes in order to support the government with getting Britain back to work.

Apprenticeships are all too often underutilised in the private sector, and from a training and learning perspective we must work with the Government to ensure new apprenticeships standards support the skills agenda and are not only fit for purpose, but class leading. Apprenticeships will undoubtedly be crucial in getting 18-24-year olds back to work and closing the ever-widening skills gaps across industry, so it’s crucial that we invest in them now in order to benefit in the years ahead.

The session was an inspiring debate around the future of learning and all of the contributors were in agreement about the opportunity to develop and transform the culture of learning within the Defence sector.

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