COVID-19 and opportunities for schools and businesses

COVID-19 and opportunities for schools and businesses

Article by Carm Cachia Chief Administrator, eSkills Malta Foundation published on The Sunday Times of Malta on 16.03.2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought a cataclysmic effect on society, industry and education. This was not something planned for, and most organisations and countries were not prepared to face something
like this. Even if they had some disaster plans in place, facing something like COVID-19 in practice is something else.

Many countries have now gone into a desperate mode due to the rapid increase in infected people and the quarantine procedures that would need to be applied.

Schools, colleges and universities have temporarily closed their doors. Travel has been reduced to emergencies only. Citizens have been asked not to meet in large groups and preferably stay at home. And workers have also been sent home unless they are absolutely needed.

It is not the first time that an invention came about as a byproduct of another experiment, or a cure found by accident, or simply something really good came out of something really bad. In the COVID19 pandemic, we can turn our attention to step up several initiatives that were pending or not given a priority.

Let’s start with training. How many organisations in the world put training before project execution, sales or
revenue? When asked, most say they do not have enough time to dedicate to training their employees.

Well, now this is the time, the
best opportunity anyone or anything can give you. You can use this time to send your employees home to undertake e-learning on the subjects and areas needed most.

This brings up the importance of e-learning. There are many online learning platforms on practically any subject you can think of. But many organisations have not given this mode of learning importance.
Well, now they can be put it to the test and implement it in the COVID-19 time-period at home.

This is the time for upskilling or the implementation of continuous professional development. We propose that
human resource departments, executives and executive directors roll-up their sleeves and further develop their employees or upskill their skills and competences.

But e-learning is not just for employees; it is also definitely applicable to students at any level. It is perhaps best known for higher and tertiary education, or perhaps certifications. But now is the opportunity to go down the levels of education to formative and secondary education.

Tools of collaboration and learning are already available, and now it’s just a matter of stepping up the training of
teachers and students to use this online collaborative learning. One can use one of the well-known platforms at a reasonable fee, or an opensource platform, or even a mix of tools like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google’s G Suite.

This is a great opportunity for schools and colleges. They just need to be helped and supported by ICT professionals or digital natives.

Another opportunity in this dark period in our history is the use of online tools to work remotely from home. Remote working had always been there as an opportunity to exploit. But issues of trust and risks have compelled organisations to give this opportunity to the higher echelon of the organigram.

Now, this is an opportunity to use the tools necessary to work from home, seamlessly and without any trouble. Organisations must start installing these tools for their employees to collaborate and work together remotely.

I have already come across a few companies who have organised drills to test their company on this aspect, and guess what! They have passed and realised this is a great way of working. Yes, organisations will need to
put some structure in place so that physical presence is executed in specific processes, but they will soon find out the benefits of working this way.

COVID-19 has therefore accelerated digital transformation in companies by creating new telecommuting and enterprise collaboration systems, creating new business models, building up competitive digital cultures in organisations, and reducing costs by improving operational efficiency and implementing industrial application scenarios of the fifth-generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks (5G) and the Internet
of Things (IoT).

So let’s be a little positive in this COVID-19 period, and transform the daily life of teachers, lecturers, students and workers, using the digital tools that have been available to us for quite some time. It is an opportunity to teach, learn and work in this digital world.​