Q&A: With Bryan Hornsey
Bryan Horsey shared his thoughts on the future of work-based learning post-COVID as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities ahead for employers and candidates alike.
Q: The Office of Work-Based Learning was created three years ago as a way to evolve the Delaware Pathways programs, and you have been at its helm since November. What is going through your mind as we’re in a rapidly evolving moment of how people work?
A: We’re experiencing a rare opportunity and using the pause COVID-19 caused to reevaluate our model and the services we provide for employers. The pathways and WBL [work-based learning] concepts are designed to quickly adapt to changes in industry, and therefore are in a good position. Meetings once reserved for face-to-face interactions can be done much more expeditiously by utilizing advances in technology and used to apply more work-based learning opportunities through virtual platforms. This is not only smart, but a mindful and efficient use of an employer’s limited time.
Q: What insights has the pandemic brought you about Delaware’s workforce and workforce development efforts?
A: Resilience. While I am used to working with Delaware’s business community, working within the education community is a new experience. I have found the ability of our educational mechanisms to respond and adapt to what Delawareans and employers need is extraordinary.
Q: Your office serves as the intermediary between employers and school districts to help students hone their skills for a career path. What are the concerns and questions you are hearing these days?
A: Uncertainty around what learning will look like this fall is number one; how employers and students should plan work-based learning within our current environment is a constant conversation topic. My approach since March has been to create and develop WBL opportunities that will be universal; work-based learning opportunities executed both in-person or virtually. However, if a student does not have sufficient internet access to receive [virtual instruction], that is a top priority needing practical solutions.
Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenges Delaware employers and rising employees will face in the months to come, from a workforce standpoint?
A: While technology can aid in connecting students and employers, if a student is on one platform and an employer another, we can’t expect them to meet. My office is working to solve this by providing a “connection of technologies” solution where students will learn about career and employment opportunities across the board.
Q: Your office also focuses on the economic development piece of the equation, to find ways to retain qualified workers in Delaware. What do you think are the biggest challenges that lie ahead to capture that workforce in what seems to be an ever-changing environment? What do you think could be our greatest successes?
A: I can’t overstate the [impact] awareness has on a student’s ability to choose, find and take advantage of career options and employment opportunities. Because Delaware is so small, there is an unspoken assumption people automatically know, for example, that the privately owned business a mile from their school provides careers of interest with competitive salaries.
Q: What advice do you offer to someone trying to figure out their place in the workforce today?
A: Leadership, problem-solving and emotional intelligence are crucial, along with the ability to articulate each of those. Take advantage of your current environment, no matter where, to practice them. Employers need candidates who can not only perform a skill, but successfully work with other people in team environments. Getting as much experience, in as many different places and contexts, as you can will enable you to learn what your interests, strengths and, most importantly, weaknesses are, in order to grow.