Live, Learn, Inspire: How to engage multiple generations for lifelong learning

by Sioux Falls Development Foundation
Published 08/16/2019
Originally Published by Sioux Falls.Business

Want to gain insight on how to work with multiple generations? Start by teaching them.

That’s what Fenecia Foster does as part of her role at Southeast Technical Institute, where she splits time teaching math and applied physics with serving as a faculty liaison working on accreditation and on-boarding faculty.

“We have a lot of Gen Xers who are coming back in the classroom to retrain, and I’ve had students who are baby boomers,” said Foster, who has been teaching at Southeast Tech. for almost seven years. “We really get those three generations – Gex X, millennials and Gen Z – in our classroom at the same time, and the workforce is similar.”

Foster will be part of a panel around the topic of “Live, Learn, Inspire” at the Aug. 22 WIN in Workforce Summit presented by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. Foster will be joined by panelists Kayla Eitreim of Junior Achievement of South Dakota, Josh Hall from the Career & Technical Education Academy and Alyssia Salguero with the South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation.

It’s one of several sessions designed to share strategies around talent development. The summit also will cover talent attraction, business partnerships and other workforce development resources.

There are plenty of parallels between education and industry when it comes to working with multiple generations, Foster said. That’s especially true as businesses try to train existing staff in needed new skills.

“Most of us learned from an instructor standing at the front of the room, going through slides and bullet points,” Foster said. “So it’s natural that’s how we would try teaching others. But we know that most people, especially younger generations, don’t learn most effectively that way.”

Instead, organizations need to focus on practices that generate more engagement, she said.

“What I try to emphasize in my classroom is the application or the context for what we’re learning,” Foster explained. “So instead of endless slides, we might look at a case study or situation where the topic applies. And then have them actively engage with you in thinking through the problem, rather than telling them how they should think through the problem.”

Younger generations seek out even more customized learning, she added.

“And all adults really want active learning, immediate application and opportunities for self-direction,” she said. “So you focus on those pieces but then figure out how to connect that with each student. So it is about learning generational stereotypes because they can apply, but it’s also about getting to know individuals so you can best meet their learning needs.”

Foster will detail her experiences further at the WIN Summit, which runs from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.