The Cycle of Life

Lord Mayor’s Commission on Employment

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Emer Costello, is to be commended for establishing a Commission on Employment for Dublin.

This is an inspired and necessary goal for the City Council and tackling unemployment or, to put it more positively, creating employment is essential for the future well-being of all who live and work in our city.

The Lord Mayor’s Commission has set up working groups on a number of key areas: (1) Unemployment & Employment, (2) Business, Entrepreneurship & Finance, (3) Education, Skills and Training, and (4) Volunteering & the Social Economy. 

The commission have invited submissions and I have copied below my own contribution on the area of Education, Skills and Training. 

Dublin City of Learning

Let’s stop and think and about learning.  No I don’t mean schooling, or formal training or the pursuit of new qualifications.  I want us to think about learning – what it means for each each of us and how it gives purpose to our lives.
We learn throughout our lives and each time we face new challenges, we take on new information, adapt our thinking and develop new skills.  We learn how to build our identity as we emerge from teenage years, we learn relationships with our partners, to be successful parents and to face the horizon of our life.
The workplace is a specific context of learning and for those who are employed, valuable learning is embedded in the contribution of work effort.  This is especially true for the so-called ‘smart economy’.  In fact, economies of the kind envisioned in the government plan are better described by the on-going process ‘learning’ rather than the end-state ‘smart’ or ‘knowledgeable’.
This is not just a flaw in the language it is much more fundamental.  People who find themselves unemployed are often people who know how to learn but who find themselves without a meaningful context for learning.  This is the tragedy.
Some knowledge economy rhetoric does them no service – to talk about the need to upskill people to a condition of ‘smartness’ is to completely miss the point of how knowledge contributes to economic growth.  If, on the other hand, we think process then we can make a much more plausible case – that learning itself can lead to innovation and contribute to economic and social well-being.
So when we ask “what can the City of Dublin do to ensure future employment and well-being of its people?” I suggest that we create a vision of a Dublin City of Learning.
What we mean is a city where learning is regarded as an activity rather than a commodity, and where we strive to provide contexts and meaning for everyone so that the learning process is nurtured and sustained through unemployment, retirement or other circumstances of disengagement.
There are many ways in which this vision can be brought about, and there are many challenges to be overcome.  This submission does not provide all the answers.  But if we get our thinking right from the start, if we challenge flawed policies and if we genuinly consider what it means to learn then we will have made a good first step.  After all, it’s the process that matters, this is what will get us there in the end.
As to an action that Dublin City Council can lead and support I suggest the following:

Dublin City of Learning Web Site
The best of the Internet is socially constructed.  This process of construction is itself a learning process and for the millions of authors of Wikipedia, writers of blogs and contributors to Facebook, web boards and Twitter, participation in the social Internet brings meaning and purpose to their lives.
We are a city – not just buildings and spaces but a city of people.
With some basic infrastructure and initial support we could create a new structure for Dublin in the on-line world.  Not like the institutional web sites that abound but something akin to the social spaces that we all enjoy.
Everyone who lives in, or has an interest in the city will be encouraged to contribute.  Some can contribute technical expertise, some as editors and lead writers, some as teachers to help those who need support with the technical and writing skills.  We will need projects to develop new areas of interest by theme or location, we will need to capture the stories of our city, install a photographic collection, display the paintings of our citizens and celebrate the achievements of all our sports people.
If we do this we will have the best resource ever to advertise the experience of Dublin to those who wish to visit, we will create a valuable resource for future generations but above all, we will be Dublin City of Learning.

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