Linking Skills-Based Learning to Career Opportunities

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Lifelong learning, the practice of continuously improving skills, competencies and knowledge, was an economic imperative before anyone heard of Covid-19. As automation begins to displace human labor, the World Economic Forum estimates that more than half of all employees will require reskilling or upskilling in just three years. While some jobs are disappearing, the same technology is transforming and creating new jobs at the same time. 

As businesses rethink their labor needs in light of this change, the reskilling revolution has picked up steam, and is here to stay. 

The pandemic has now magnified this need. Entire industries have come to a standstill, while others, such as health services and online retail, have exploded. This has created an unprecedented imbalance in the job market with millions unemployed at the same time that some skilled jobs lack a trained workforce. 

The Increasing Importance of Mapping Skills-Based Learning to Job Opportunities

As the cost of higher education rises, students and parents are prioritizing a return on investment as they evaluate schools and programs. This trend has only increased as the pandemic continues to change the economic landscape, and speed-to-job becomes more pressing. So, what if schools started with local economic needs first? What if they determined what skills are, and will be, in demand, and then built programs to train students of any age to meet that demand? That’s the idea behind places like Ivy Tech Community College, the statewide system in Indiana.

The community college system built a skills-centric ecosystem by aligning programming with key economic sectors in Indiana, including employer needs and new career opportunities across the state. Ivy Tech also employs consultants who help local companies train existing employees and build their talent pipeline with highly qualified candidates.

With unemployment at a record high, equipping students with the skills employers are looking for has become even more of an imperative across the state of Indiana. For Bruce Switzer, like many others, Covid-19 brought uncertainty with his employer and career path. However, it also brought him a desire to improve, and an opportunity in the form of Ivy Tech’s free online courses was just what he needed.

“At first, I was interested in taking these courses just to take them and have a background with some advanced manufacturing,” said Switzer. With new job opportunities coming to West Lafayette and all that was going on with his current employer, he soon realized just how beneficial taking the courses could be. “I wanted these certificates to add to my resume and to show my willingness to learn and adaptability in an ever-changing job market.”

Now, just a few months later, Bruce has completed two classes and received two silver certifications. “These courses are an outstanding resource to gain knowledge, for free,” he said.

As the job market evolves, Ivy Tech evaluates its services, and builds new support systems to help students move from classroom to career. Currently, they are building a model called Career Coaching and Employer Connections. Under this model, every student at Ivy Tech will have a profile, built in Education Cloud, that serves as a centralized source of information that evolves with the individual. Each semester students will meet with a career coach who helps them build and refine their resume. This will help students find and apply for an internship, and, eventually, a full-time job. These profiles will create robust data on the student journey, enabling Ivy Tech to analyze progress while at school, and help determine outcomes after graduation.

Using Cutting Edge Technology To Develop Tangible Skills 

Not too long ago, big data was a hot topic that many people talked about, but few knew how to make a career out of it. Today, it’s viewed as one of the best careers, and it’s one of the many real-life skills programs you can take at Georgian College in Ontario, Canada.

Instructors use software like Tableau to teach their students tangible work skills. With guest speakers and real-world research projects, the school demonstrates the value of learning this technology with hands-on experiences.

For students like Sondra Green, this approach can activate previously acquired academic knowledge by providing a practical skill set.

“I developed a passion for research and analytics while obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Psychology,” said Green. While her undergraduate program helped her learn about research, and how to effectively interpret data, she realized that she lacked the programming experience to apply her research abilities in a business setting. “Georgian College’s Big Data Analytics Graduate Certificate program allowed me to merge my academic knowledge with a technical and practical skill set.”

Today, Sondra works as a Data Analyst at Dig Insights, a leader in the market research industry. “This two-semester program was a short investment that helped me secure a career in the industry,” she said.

Reskilling goes beyond learning the latest technology. It’s about building both the skills and agility to find a new job, and to continue evolving skills development alongside changes in the job market. Georgian College wanted to provide a tangible resource where students could continue learning outside the classroom. Course content will soon be supplemented with Trailhead, a free digital learning experience platform from Salesforce, where students can build relevant skills like data analysis and visualization. After students graduate, they can continue to use the platform to up level their skills, or learn new ones as needed.

“My role as an educator is to develop these students and upskill them for success,” said Eli Kane, Professor of Big Data Analytics at Georgian, “I hear from students all the time who are continuing to learn on the job.”

Covid-19 and the Accelerated Need For New Skills

As the pandemic continues to put pressure on the economy, businesses are prioritizing the jobs and skills that will help them navigate recovery in a digital-first world.

Maintaining access to education is vital at this time. Georgian College moved their courses online so that their students, 90% of which are international, could continue to learn. The staff is continuously evaluating course content to ensure that it’s aligned with the shifting needs of employers. That diligence has led to a waiting list for the Big Data Analytics program that is over a year long.

As people who were laid off look for new work, speed-to-job has taken precedence. Ivy Tech recognized this need, and collaborated with government, employers and community organizations to build Indiana Rapid Recovery. This program includes free training through Ivy Tech or corporate partners, and career services. A recent virtual career fair resulted in hundreds of students and dozens of employers connecting with interviews and job offers.

Ivy Tech is also taking a proactive approach by working in partnership with community organizations to scale their outreach efforts to those who have lost their job due to the pandemic. They work with a local food bank to distribute course flyers, and go to churches and community centers to register individuals for classes. 

“Work and a good job can be transformative,” says Chris Lowery, SVP of Workforce and Careers at Ivy Tech, “People need relief, and higher education can be the bridge of opportunity between that relief and transformation. We need to be proactive and go to people, rather than wait for them to come to us.”

The Evolution of the Education-Career Continuum

As the economic landscape continues to evolve, learning and work have become more integrated than ever before. Educational institutions that provide opportunities for reskilling and upskilling give their students more than just new skills. They help unlock new job opportunities, while empowering students of any age to future-proof their careers and adapt with the changing needs of employers.

Learn more about how you can drive learner and institution success with Education Cloud.



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