I sat in on a presentation made by Professor Latreille on how they are helping 1st year students to come up the learning curve so that the dramatic differences in skills levels are smoothed out. These differences arise because of individual differences, differences between people from different countries and technology levels, differences between cultures, and so on and so forth.
But the interesting this is, that he has developed an e-based skills management module which he uses to track his student's progress, links to blogs, photographs, and all the nice web 2.0 stuff, very impressive indeed. I looked at some folders which contained work that his students had created and again, it was quite impressive, I pay about £10 per hour in India for that kind of professional presentation and document creation work while it would be about 5-15 times that much here in the UK, even if you manage to find somebody in the first place... (check out this firm that I have used in a previous firm to do document management and tarting up).
He also circulated a skills evaluation questionnaire, here's a copy. And this is what struck me. I am working in a global financial industry, which effectively attracts the best and the brightest of the world. And, by and large, everybody in the industry has a graduate degree and a fair proportion have a masters and quite a lot of them have PhD's or multiple degrees. So you would expect that they will all ace this questionnaire, no?
No. I do not think so. Even if you exclude the questions relating to technical knowledge of economics (bloody worrying, how on earth can a person employed in a financial institution not know basics of economics?) it is a tough one. If you assume that the scale 1-4 stands for 1 being the person who enters the industry with no experience and just a graduate degree and 4 being say C level executives, I am not very sure that the vast majority of C level executives will rate themselves as 4 (if they are honest). If I had to rate them, they will get rated lower (self obsessed arrogant BSD jerks).
If I tried to be honest and just do the first section relating to Managing and Improving Learning and Performance, this is where I will end up. Out of 10 potential 4's, I will get 4 3's, 5 2's, and 1 1's. Upon reflection, I do not think I have been completely honest with myself. If 4 stands for the ideal state, the self actualised state, then I am way behind on all these factors, perhaps I am overstating this by 20%.
If I think back on my career and the co-workers, the vast majority will say the same, i think (if they were bored enough to bother with this...) :).
So my gut feel is, that this skills questionnaire is not only suitable for the 1st year, but for every year of your life. And you could do worse than to read this on new year's eve and take some of these resolutions! Continuous learning and improvement....