Andres Franco, a clear example of Learnability

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The world has changed, that is an undeniable reality everyone living in it faces every day. In the digital era, consumer policies and practices have begun to mutate; perhaps this fact it is not noticeable in cultures that have developed a need for being online, in which the solutions to any problem depends on using the right app or where the consumption of electronic devices by each inhabitant is 3 to 1, but it is certainly evident in regions with lack of technological development such as South America.

We have known first-hand the case of a Colombian businessman named Andrés Franco, who lives in a city that does not exceed half a million of inhabitants and that has reached a quite interesting personal record by completing 20 qualifications with professional validity during the pandemic.

Andres, who works in different areas of production as a consultant in communications, advertising, corporate clothing, music, and education, ensures that the secret behind his success was just discipline and good timing.

We will not delve into the detail of the event itself, since different publications have already managed to do echo of this, in addition to the fact that he has already told his story in detail on his site and on his social networks. What we will do analyze from an educational perspective is the equivalence of this event in the professional life of an individual and how it can radically change the rules of the game of his professional life.

One of the most known quotes from the writer Tom Clancy is: “Life is learning, when you stop learning, you die.”, a vision shared by many professionals who also think that the learning process never finishes. The feeling of having a new achievement in life, the personal satisfaction of having overcome another challenge, the recognition that one has to the effort are some very powerful motivations that make people developing a kind of addiction to learning.

There is a concept called Learnability that in cases like Franco's, for being developed constant practice is needed. The definition of Learnability has to do with the quick pace that society and companies have nowadays, and with being in tune with a world that is in constant transformation. Therefore, Learnability is the ability to learn new skills throughout life, to remain employable in the long term. Is the capacity one has to respond quickly to change, and this ability in particular, is something that we are forced to work on, we have to develop it and keep on learning. In fact, it is one of the most demanded skills in the XXI century as part of a concept called “ability for the future”.

There is not a Spanish translation for the word “learnability”, that is why Spanish speaking people adopted it as a neologism from the English language, although in some cases the concept aprendibilidad is also used as a literal translation. The truth is, at least for the moment, neither of the two terms has been accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy.

For Andres Franco, the main motivation of his constant educational exercise lies in his clients’ different dynamic necessities. The fact that he faces new business models, digital adaptation, changes in the language and new technologies have been determining elements that change the rules of the game in developing countries where technological development barely reaches 78% of usability in households and companies.

On the other hand, these challenges also ensure that the old model of recruitment that has lead in the labor market is evolving towards the search for versatile and inquisitive profiles, able to apply both technical or strong skills and soft skills in a global and changing environment.

Learnability has two dimensions: The first is the ability to continue learning. The second is the desire to know for the sake of knowing, that fits with the idea of having a positive attitude towards new challenges that enable them to develop new skills. The sum of capacity plus attitude ends up giving as a result a professional being prepared for the changes that are to come.

If we were to evaluate Andres Franco's degrees in today's market, we would have a quite astonishing figure, approximately 23,700 US dollars than in Colombia are equivalent to more than 90 million pesos, the approximate value of a family home for a middle-class family. The foremost inquisitive thing is that the price of all these degrees cost him only 17 dollars, since they were all completely free due to the state of emergency with COVID-19, and this cost only represents the shipment for 2 of the 20 certificates he managed to get. In the labor market, that amount of degrees can be equivalent to a resume of someone who can aspire to get a junior executive position in a corporation offering a salary between 450 and 750 thousand dollars annually.

According to Ikujiro Nonaka, professor of Strategy and Corporate Management, “the best source to obtain lasting competitive advantage is knowledge”. In this regard, it should be noted that sharing that knowledge contributes to organizational learning since, as a professional learns, so does the whole team. For organizations, one of the main benefits of Learnability is that the accumulated experience and know-how become a very valuable asset. An accurate way to multiply collective intelligence is for each department to organize a monthly session to share the difficulties everyone has encountered, and how they have succeeded in solving them.

Up to 150,000 workers a year is the amount companies’ demand for professionals has increased, more specifically for those with studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, although only 7% of the total of students are currently persuading a degree in these fields.

This data, extracted from a recent Randstad report, highlight the mismatch between the business needs and the professional offer of the labor market in countries like Colombia. In March, the Association of Digital Economy presented a study in which it was concluded that only in 2019, SMEs hired 255,000 professionals with a profile linked to technologies and digital fields, and up to 40% are looking for employees with digital knowledge.

Therefore, Learnability is no longer an exclusive discipline of technologists and engineers, but a transformation lever in many sectors and activities. On this subject, the report concludes that this fact is indeed a generational change, and 72% of employees perceive that this type of skills is one of the main differences among professionals between 30 and 55 years old.