Workers ‘ ability to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workplace is one of the most impactful and uncertain variables for the future of work. For workforce education, there are two paths forward: learning outcomes that remain largely the same or undergoing a “rapid evolution in learning.”
Their business and government recommendations count on some degree of change in the lower and higher ed. The proposed reforms include adding to the curriculum tech-based and soft skills; combining offline and online learning; “professionalizing and enhancing” the roles of teachers; and developing “better and more inclusive” lifelong learning systems. They’re not counting out challenges. For example, how successfully employees can refresh their skill sets will depend on “the quality and access to” those supports and “the associated costs and time as well as clarity about their potential returns.”
One of the “most critical actions” in the report is the ability to do so. It is also a higher ed area of greater focus. A policy paper published in September by the Public & Land-grant Universities Association placed workforce development under the jurisdiction of four-year research universities and urged institutions to find ways to connect their programs with their local and regional economies.
Several institutions are looking to lock this prospective student pipeline, which is shaping up as traditional enrollments decline to be an important revenue stream. In recent months, Arizona State University and the NUS have each launched ventures designed to work with employers seeking educational opportunities for their employees. While Arizona State’s InStride’s for-profit nature has raised eyebrows, observers told Education Dive that the ability to attract and retain adult learners brought in through these arrangements is often not something that traditional universities do well.
To reach this group, other institutions are expanding their online offerings. Among them, the Massachusetts University system recently announced plans for an online college that targets adult learners. And New York State University is ongoing with an online expansion that hopes to reach this group and fend off competition from online powerhouses like its Southern New Hampshire University neighbor.
Colleges also add to their curriculum job-related knowledge. Four-year curriculum is also slowly gaining traction by embedding certifications in degrees, a long option at two-year institutions. Other recent work on short-term credentials includes developing badges that employers have requested in soft skills, such as oral communication and problem solving.