With the recent events in Iran, the tipping point for Twitter as social innovation has happened. Most likely if there is a successful change of power in Iran, it will likely be known as the Twitter revolution. Throughout the world there is a new awareness of how people use social media to transform everything, from knitting to the US Army. In June, Army officials ordered U.S. bases to stop blocking soldiers' access to some of the most popular social-networking sites.
As reported on Wired.com, the order states: "The intent of senior Army leaders to leverage social media as a medium to allow soldiers to 'tell the Army story' and to facilitate the dissemination of strategic, unclassified information, the social-media sites available from the Army homepage will be made accessible from all campus area networks."
As I watch the adoption of social media by various government agencies I think: Why not workforce development?
This is the question I am posing to my community as we tangle with the enormous challenge American workers face in our rapidly shifting and unpredictable economy. Here in Tucson, despite the downturn, some employers are still having trouble recruiting key high tech workers because of skills gaps. We're creating the WIRED Innovation Frontier Arizona (IFA) regional knowledge exchange in response. This is an innovation collaboration platform intended to transform workforce education and training programs and enable them to be nimble enough to keep pace with employer needs.
The IFA regional knowledge exchange builds on the development of entrepreneurial collaboration platforms for WIRED regions in Mid-Michigan and Southeast Michigan where CSW and WIRED partners have created WeToo, a feature rich social networking site that supports the regional WIRED goals and objectives.
The Arizona office of the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) has entered into a partnership with the University of Arizona's Eller College MIS program to create the regional knowledge exchange. The WeToo Research and Development Lab has been established to support workforce development strategies for four counties in southern Arizona. Eller MIS students are working together with CSW, academic faculty, government agencies and private sector partners across the region to launch the new online collaboration platform later this summer.
The new WeToo platform will support innovative workforce education and training initiatives across industry sectors. This is the first time the academic institutions, One Stops, economic development professionals and employers in the different communities have worked together to create joint workforce development programs. It includes a rural entrepreneurial education program that will transform the lives of many young people in our area who previously didn't have access, to one of the best entrepreneurial programs in the country at the University of Arizona. The WeToo regional knowledge exchange will support WIRED objectives to facilitate project collaboration, sharing and archiving information, creating virtual work spaces, and assist partners in attaining benchmark goals.
As we work together in creating the knowledge exchange we're confronted with concerns about community adoption of the platform and users adapting to new work methods - issues confronting the workforce as a whole. Once again the way work is done is being transformed by technology, but it is happening with such rapidity that the time honored necessity of keeping one's skills up to date is virtually impossible for the majority of workers. Not to mention those of us who do our best to learn the utility of all of the proliferating apps we download to our desktops or into our BlackBerrys, iPhones and Google phones each week.
Our task is to help workforce development professionals use technology to address this vexing problem of skills shortages in a time of high unemployment, as reported in the New York Times "Despite Recesssion High Demand For Skilled Labor."
Will welders tweet? It seems unlikely, but social media is helping everyone be more nimble in responding to the workforce development challenges at the end of the naughties. This is something workforce development professionals should be paying attention to.
Contributor Lewis Humphreys leads the Corporation For A Skilled Workforce's community transformation initiatives in the Southwestern U.S.