New life for lifelong learning

Hofstra University's Debbi HonorofHofstra University's Debbi Honorof.

Keeping up with evolving work environments takes some doing, and Hofstra University wants to give regional professionals a hand – whether or not they sign up for the school’s continuing-education courses.

To that end, Debbi Honorof, senior director of continuing education at the Hempstead university, has established a series of monthly events focused on “Thriving in the 21st Century Workplace.” Her mission: To help established professionals understand the new skillsets required by modern workplaces.

It’s a subject quite familiar to Honorof, who for years has been hosting discussions around Long Island on creative problem-solving, emotional intelligence, storytelling, “a whole list of cognitive and social skills professionals need to understand to function in a knowledge-based economy,” she said.

“Computers are doing more and more of the lower-level functions,” Honorof noted. “What’s needed today are higher-level cognitive functions, the things computers can’t do.”

The irony of computers handling more day-to-day functions, she added, is it requires human workers to be more collaborative.

“The silos are coming down,” Honorof said. “There’s a lot more cross-functional collaboration happening and professionals need a much broader range of knowledge and skills than they used to. They need to communicate.”

Having shared this message personally over the last two years with job-seeker groups and other Long Island-based professional organizations, Honorof now plans to let others do the talking. With the help of Meetup – a global social media networking portal that facilitates offline meetings at various locations – she’s arranging gatherings at multiple Island venues and inviting experts from different professional fields to share their experiences.

The first “Thriving” Meetup is scheduled for Dec. 2 at LaunchPad Huntington, and at that kickoff meeting Honorof will do most of the talking. But starting with the second Meetup, scheduled for Jan. 26 at the Port Washington Library, she’ll hand off the microphone to guest speakers.

That Jan. 26 Meetup, dubbed “Think Like an Entrepreneur,” is slated to feature career coach Francine Fabricant, author of the college text “Creating Career Success.” Honorof is busy planning further Meetups focused on topics and talents she sees as critical to modern workplace functionality, including improvisation, social media literacy and critical thinking.

While “we’d love for everyone to sign up for continuing-education courses at Hofstra,” Honorof acknowledges that there are many ways to learn the ropes of the 21st century workplace. In addition to traditional classroom-based continuing-ed options, she cited Massive Open Online Courses that deliver knowledge or college credits or both, including selections offered by companies like Coursera, a California-based for-profit education technology firm, and EdX, a Massachusetts-based MOOC provider offering free online courses from MIT, Harvard and other top institutions.

But however professionals choose to do it, Honorof added, “lifelong learning is essential,” a message not lost on many of today’s professionals. Her personal continuing-education roadshow has been well-received over the last two years, she said, and already there’s been a “good response” to her Meetup strategy.

“As soon as it went out on Meetup, even before we had anything scheduled, we had a lot of people joining,” she said. “Now we’ll start to really gung-ho promote this.”

She’d love to see 40 attendees or more at each Meetup, Honorof noted, but whoever attends will get a leg up on 21st century professional development from people with from-the-trenches perspectives.

“This is a totally new approach that many people, especially job-seekers, are not aware of,” she said. “The world is changing so rapidly, and you have to keep learning to keep up.”