Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, February 13, 2017

"Looming hire woes in IT sector"/ "How for- profit education made class clowns"

Jan. 13, 2017 "Looming hiring woes in IT sector give reason for worker retraining": Today I found this article by Sarah Franklin in the Globe and Mail:

Free courses found online can help improve your chances of finding a job

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at leadershiplab.

Canada, like its neighbour to the south, is on the precipice of a significant skills gap. Research shows that by 2019 there will be 182,000 jobs in information and communications technology that won’t be filled because of a lack of people with the right skills in this country.

These unfilled roles will include jobs such as computer programmers, software engineers, data administrators, information-systems analysts and network operators – good paying, interesting jobs in a variety of fields, including health care, entertainment, financial services, marketing and just about any other industry you can think of. Already 40 per cent of recently surveyed IT leaders had trouble recruiting IT professionals with the right skills and nearly half (46 per cent) had difficulty filling a position in the last year.

This is why some companies are changing the way they look at recruitment. Rather than always basing hires on “what they know,” they’re looking at “what they can do.” It’s a slight shift, but important in this digital economy with shrinking resources.

What this means to potential employees is they don’t necessarily need six-figure educations to land excellent jobs. In fact, many institutions and companies are providing free online courses.

A number of massive open online courses (MOOCs), free online college-level classes open to anyone, have emerged for those who want to learn without a hefty price tag, including courses provided by some of the world’s most prestigious universities such as Princeton and Duke. Progressive companies are also starting to provide free courses for anyone who wants to upgrade their skills. Programs such as Trailhead, which trains participants on Salesforce expertise, helps prepare people for the nearly 30,000 Salesforcebased jobs projected to be created in Canada between now and 2018. Trailhead – which was a big focus at our annual Dreamforce conference held in San Francisco last October – applies the model of interactive learning made popular by MOOCs and websites such as Code School, Codecademy and Khan Academy, to the goal of learning Salesforce.

And it’s working. Recruiters are seeing certifications and skillsets such as these as attractive additions to LinkedIn profiles.

Successful participants have included war veterans looking for retraining, administrative assistants who are able to use their certification to open doors to new opportunities, people who have a passion for technology and those already in an IT capacity who simply want to better their career. Not only are they preparing themselves to fill current and coming skills gaps, but they’re finding opportunities for consideration where they may not have existed before.

With 12 out of the 25 highest paying jobs in demand right now focused on IT, and the youth unemployment rate at just more than 13 per cent, it’s the ideal time for Canadians to consider enhancing and building their skill sets regardless of their background.

A number of massive open online courses (MOOCs), free online college-level classes open to anyone, have emerged for those who want to learn without a hefty price tag, including courses provided by some of the world’s most prestigious universities such as Princeton and Duke.

Sarah Franklin is senior vice-president and general manager of Trailhead, Salesforce.

Jan. 20, 2017 "How for-profit education made class clowns of four businesspeople": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

Class Clowns
By Jonathan A. Knee
Columbia Business School, 274 pages, $29.95

The public offering of stock in Edison Schools in the United States in 1999 signalled the hope that, by using business principles, a private company could deliver better public schools for less money, leaving taxpayers and children (and investors) better off.

The founder, serial entrepreneur Chris Whittle, declared that “10 years from now, when you think about who does the best schools, we want there to be only one word that comes to mind.”

If 18 years later you can’t recall ever hearing about the scheme, don’t fret. If you didn’t invest in the seemingly glorious opportunity, count yourself lucky.

It flopped, as did a series of ventures around the turn of the century where big-name businesspeople with noble intentions such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, hedge fund titan John Paulson and financier Michael Milken tried to bring market discipline and technology to the allegedly backward, blinkered world of education.

“Some of the most respected minds of our generation have invested many billions of dollars in for-profit education enterprises. And, with surprising regularity, they have lost their shirt,” Jonathan Knee, a professor at Columbia Business School and former investment banker, writes in Class Clowns.

The book is timely as Donald Trump prepares to be sworn in as president of the United States with a cabinet dominated by businesspeople who want to transform education and much more along business principles. The book is filled with stories of hubris and myopia, of a failure to understand the field of education and, indeed, in some respects even the basis of success in business outside the celebrated investors’ traditional field of dominance.

The title is drawn from spinoffs when the code words used for a company’s two new parts often are “Spinco” and “RemainCo.” When Rupert Murdoch was forced to spin off his money-losing (but beloved) education assets by others in his company who hated them, the code name was “ClownCo.”

The enterprises covered all spheres of education, from day care to university and beyond – educational publishing, testing, and technology support, among them. And it included more than the illustrious businesspeople, as they reached out for assistance from luminaries such as former Yale University president Benno Schmidt Jr., who left that prestigious post to helm Edison Schools, and New York’s reforming chancellor of public schools Joel Klein, who teamed up with Mr. Murdoch.

The book revolves around case studies of four specific investors – Mr. Whittle, Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Paulson and Mr. Milken. Interestingly, a key factor for failure, Prof. Knee feels, was not understanding the concepts of competitive advantage and scale. “Although often mistakenly assigned to any number of attractive business characteristics, competitive advantage refers to something very specific: A structural barrier that prevents competitors from simply replicating the results of a successful business,” he writes.

Often they made that mistake and when the competitive advantage wasn’t there – just some interesting business characteristics – they struggled, getting into even more hot water. In education, scale can be critical. As well, too often these investors reached to build something big that in fact lacked scale advantages. “Size doesn’t matter but scale does,” he says.

For example, buying private schools all over the United States – or, indeed, globally – can give an operator size but not much opportunity to take advantage of scale. A competitor with not nearly as many schools, but concentrated in one state – geographically close, same curriculum and regulatory system – can be the one building on scale because of those characteristics. These investors seemed to miss the importance of scale being advantageous in fields where fixed costs are high, so size made it easier to finance that burden. Too often they were in ventures dominated by variable costs – getting bigger just meant, say, more salaries to pay, and no advantage from scale.

On the Internet, Prof. Knee says scale comes with network effects. Some of these ventures simply hope to use technology and the Internet to reach out wider, which won’t necessarily succeed. He points to eBay’s network advantage: The more people who use it, the more attractive it is for others to use. The same is true of Turnitin, which helps universities to weed out student plagiarism. Since those plagiarists usually use a friend rather than a public source like Wikipedia, the more term papers universities supply to Turnitin to check – indeed, the more universities that contract to it – the better its service as it compares them to each other.

Turnitin is an example of a successful educational money-maker. There are others cited in the book. It’s not as if businesspeople can’t make a buck (or a lot of bucks) in education. But it’s not a sure thing, as the class clowns showed.

The book is thorough and incisive, rigorously presented. The market for reading it may be thin – most people don’t want as much information on educational ventures as he provides – but its message is important.


The idea of framing your career around one simple idea, captured in a single word, is the subject of two just-published books: Your One Word (Tarcher Perigee, 249 pages, $35) by entrepreneurial coach Evan Carmichael and Life Word (Wiley, 98 pages, $24) by keynote speakers Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page.

Consultants Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon, back in Canada after a period in the United States, offer a third edition, revised and expanded, of Prisoners of Our Thoughts (Berrett-Koehler, 255 pages, $27.95), which uses the principles from concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl to help you discover meaning in life and work.

In Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greatness (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 210 pages, $35.50) by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch,and Sean Lynch, three military veterans turned leadership experts argue leaders can be found – and be effective – at any level of an organization.
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home