Hanging out at the International Festival of Business: how is a business a school?

Contrary to what many employers might hanker after, potential employees do not arrive on their doorsteps for their first day of work as fully formed potential employees of the year. Employers might bemoan the lack of literacy, numeracy, ICT-cosy-ability, the ability to walk and talk at the same time and other human being related skills, but the proto-employee will have learnt loads of other things since they were in school, college, university or at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Whether they were taught those things is another matter: but they will have certainly learnt loads of things albeit not necessarily of the employer-user-friendly-type.

That’s because as human beings our natural state of being is to learn, to be inquisitive, to be curious and to construct meaning. It’s what separates us from the dolphins, the chimps and the allegedly intelligent fungus that lives on leaf mould in Patagonia. None of these things construct meaning like human beings and if you’re not sure about that, just go to your nearest pub on a Friday after work and tell me what you see constructing meaning. Not a dolphin in sight and certainly no chimpanzee holding forth on why Manchester United are in such steep decline. No: it’s the human being in the room who is making meaning from their every day learnt experiences, many of which are forged in the workplace.

So, businesses might help themselves if they recognised that they have a stealth-like educational function to their raison d’être. This isn’t about passing exams or following curriculum or heaven forbid just learning a list of mechanical skills to evidence in their portfolio of competences: it’s much more important than that as it’s about making social sense of our existence, economic sense for our families and cultural sense for our communities.

Businesses may not think they’re schools but they so have a powerful educational mission and could do everyone a favour if they stepped up to the plate a lot more frequently.

More to follow on education and business at our June conference: http://www.allourfutures.co.uk

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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