The internet is a wonderful thing. I honestly don’t know how in the world civilization got along without it for as long as we did. How did people communicate, network, learn, get the latest news, shop, find recipes, catch up on the TV shows they missed? How, how, how?
Ask anyone born after 1982, and they probably can’t answer that question with first hand knowledge. For better or for worse, I can answer it, since I am approaching the 40 year mark much faster than I can stomach. I remember the days when there were only three channels on TV, no answering machines, phones that were stationary, and people actually sent handwritten letters to each other via the U.S. Post Office. All records were kept in paper files and typed on typewriters. Documents were mailed back and forth and back again. What used to be a month-long process to complete a business transaction, such as finalizing a contract, is now completed in a day or less. It’s really amazing if you think about how drastically communication avenues have changed. In the past 25 years, we’ve come a long way, baby!
So, here we are, in 2010, and everything is instant. Needing instant gratification used to be considered a supposed personality flaw, but now it’s just par for the course. News, communication, transactions, instant! And not only can you get your information at the click of a mouse anymore – because that’s old school – you can get bombarded by it via email, print media, TV, radio, text, and through social networking feeds, like Facebook and Twitter. It seems like every federal government agency has a Twitter feed now!
My state government, depending on the department, seems to dabble a bit in the social networking fury here and there, but for the most part, have not gotten on the bandwagon. My agency blocks all of these sites so that employees don’t spend all day on Facebook taking yet another “What Type of Shoe are You?” quiz – instead of doing their actual work. For the most part, I can’t say that I blame them. However, I’ve been trying to bring the Louisiana Apprenticeship Division into the 21st century since I took this position two years ago, and in many ways have succeeded. About six months ago I started a Facebook group entitled “Registered Apprenticeship in Louisiana,” and so far I have a whopping – are you sitting down? – FIFTY members!!!! The numbers are staggering, aren’t they?
I recently decided to branch out via Twitter and LinkedIn. Guess how many followers I have? Six. Not five, not seven, but six. I’m quickly realizing that there is an art to social networking in the professional realm, I’m just not very well versed in it. So much for, “If you build it, they will come.” It seems that the key to developing a presence is to actually NETWORK on these sites. I have spent hours joining like-minded groups, befriending industry notables, following pertinent and newsworthy Tweets, and adding workforce development professionals to “my network” – and have fifty six interested people to show for it. Let’s not forget that I can’t access these sites at work, so all of these hours of drumming up free publicity must be done on my personal time at home. I had no idea social networking was so time consuming, especially if you’re trying to provide updates that are time sensitive or relative to current events.
Hopefully, with time, I’ll get better at this. I have many goals that I’d like to achieve through this online medium. I want registered apprenticeship to become better known in workforce development circles. I want apprentices to connect with us so that they come to realize that registered apprenticeship is an extraordinary national system and opportunity to better themselves. I want to be able to see more active exchanges of ideas on other sites besides this one (which is phenomenal in its own right, I might add). I want program sponsors to feel more tied into our system, and be more informed about the latest news that may be directly related to registered apprenticeship. So, if you have any ideas or best practices in this realm, please share, because I’m all ears.
(P.S. - Please follow us on Twitter - LApprenticeship, join our Facebook group – Registered Apprenticeship in Louisiana, and/or the Linkedin group – Louisiana Registered Apprenticeship. Help us grow beyond 56!)