L&D QuestionTime Awards Finalists – Kate Ross

With the recent announcement of the finalists of the 2020 Learning Awards, we start a new series of the L&D QuestionTime where we hear from this years finalists.

Today we hear from Kate Ross shortlisted in the Learning Leader of The Year category.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

The biggest anxiety is also the biggest opportunity for L&D, and that is the challenge of preparing our workforce and potential workforce for the new skills and behaviours that digital transformation, AI and other aspects of the 4th industrial revolution are bringing to bear on the workplace. When you dig into the research and hashtags around “The Future of Work”, you realise that this is going to impact everyone: all sectors, all types of workers, and all generations, but in ways that are not clearly defined and keep evolving at pace. The L&D portfolio has to be able to reskill and upskill the existing workforce, prepare early professionals to deliver in this new environment, and even extends to the potential workforce – helping people gain the skills they need for meaningful employment in your industry. The skills are both technical and “soft” skills, with the latter of critical importance. So the question is how do we manage the challenge, how do we appeal to these diverse audiences, and keep up content-wise?

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

It’s always the business. Thinking around L&D has to focus first and foremost on what the business needs now, next year, and beyond, and what our clients need. Then we formulate a plan on how to get there. Some of the key drivers which influence my thinking of late include our growth in uptake of higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships, not to mention that we are an employer provider for higher apprenticeships. Therefore, Ofsted’s new inspection framework plays an important role, as well as growing workforce diversity in terms of gender, race, religion, ability and neurodiversity.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

It has to be the combination of Cloud platforms and AI that enable us to reach out to the greatest number of learners and provide individualised learning pathways that are based on targeted, “hot” skills development. If you can tie those pathways in to real demand for jobs and provide content and structure that appeals to various learning styles, then you’ve got yourself not only a pipeline of skilled recruits, but also a platform for up-skilling and re-skilling current employees.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

I’d like to see a greater uptake and increase in options for degree apprenticeships, because it is still largely untapped in the UK and our business has had such a success with this programme that represents about one third of our apprentice population. Degree apprenticeships work to attract, retain and re-skill high potential employees, providing practical and theoretical learning concurrently, in university and at work. For example, through their university studies, our degree apprentices learn key skills such as critical thinking and analysis, which we put into practice both in business simulations and on the job. It’s win-win for everyone.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2030?

I think a lot of the work we do in creating pathways, suggesting learning, creating learning plans and curating content will be automated and supported by AI. We will still be making decisions on the best way to transmit learning to a broad and diverse audience, adapting our working practices and our platforms to support those decisions. I also think there will be greater value placed on human interaction and so we might see an upsurge in coaching, soft skills training and new areas opening up in human-machine interaction. In short, there is simply loads of opportunity for us to keep things human in an increasingly digital world.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Have confidence in your strengths, and don’t do things strictly because you think society expects you to (although I’m not sure I would have listened!).

About Kate:

Kate designs and delivers learning & development and talent programmes for early professionals at IBM UK to create future leaders who are growth-focused and ready to make a difference. For the past nine years she has been a senior manager in IBM UK’s Foundation Programme, responsible for the career development of IBM UK’s graduates, interns, apprentices and trainees in all areas of the business. With a background in management consulting, Kate employs methodologies such as Lean Sigma and Design Thinking to keep developing new opportunities in formal and non-formal learning and the early professional experience at IBM.

Kate enjoy’s turning ideas into strategy, and strategy into action, and to take on projects where she can fully employ my creativity, problem-solving and leadership skills.  Outside interests include literature and philosophy, object and furniture design.

Connect with Kate on LinkedIn

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