Lens on Lifelong Learners - Back to School for Career Progression Blog
LIfelong learners or adult learners fall into a few different categories, but the broadest ones are...
As we turn our Lens on Learners, we want to look at the different types of learners in today’s space, define who they are and also work to understand their needs and how micro-credentials and digital badging can help them. Let’s look at the learners with the most urgent need for retraining or additional education - those learners who are underemployed, unemployed, or have been displaced from their careers by either technological advances or other factors.
Underemployed, unemployed and displaced learners need to quickly do a few key things:
Many of these learners may already possess a certain level of education, but they are often in a more advanced stage of their lives. They have mortgages, debts, families and other fiscal responsibilities that mean they don’t have the leisure of time for a degree program or lengthy retraining. They need the answer to one question: "What can I do right now?"
Before we go any further, it is important to define the types of learners we are talking about. They are the learners with an urgent need of developing and validating skills that will help them transition into a new career field because their previous one is no longer viable for whatever reason. They fall into three categories, but these categories can, and do, overlap:
Besides marketing, in what career areas are learners most often finding themselves out of work?
Marketing is simply one example of an industry where AI, machine learning and automation were already eliminating some jobs and changing the scope of others. Realistically, any industry where a part of a process or even the entire process can be automated, skilled workers are being displaced in various ways.
Let’s look at a couple of other examples and what workers can expect:
Almost all types of manufacturing can benefit from automation. Not only does this save money, but it also protects workers - certain jobs are simply safer for automated robots to do than humans, who make more errors. But it isn’t even completely about efficiency and accuracy. Manufacturing often involves chemicals and other carcinogens that have long term impact on the health of those who work in those industries.
Of course, workers being displaced also means other jobs with different skill-sets are being created. Someone has to program the robots, teach the machines about quality control, monitor the automation process and make repairs as needed. These positions require different skills than that of a typical line worker, but they are skills that can be taught - and taught fairly quickly.
An Oxford report recently found that 8.5% of the world’s workplace, 20 million jobs, many in manufacturing, could be replaced by robots by 2030. That’s a huge number of workers who will need to be retrained.
Machines can, and already do, many accounting functions and they do them well. Many low-level accountants and others have already been displaced by computer programs and applications that do a great job at tracking and figuring things like cashflow and profit and loss. Many small businesses do all of their accounting through programs like Quickbooks, Sage, and others.
This expands to things like payroll functions and accounts receivables among others. And as day trading expands and AI begins to also learn the markets, many financial advisors may face some kind of extinction as well unless they specialise in specific areas of risk and wealth management.
However, finance jobs requiring AI skills are growing and increased in 2019 by 60%. Workers in this field must prepare for this new reality. But how?
First and perhaps foremost, in many fields there is a shortage of workers - a near critical shortage in many. The skills gap, although strenuously over discussed, is very real and still impacting employers.
There are some vital steps each learner can and in many cases should take:
But what if, like many of the learners we are talking about here, the job seeker needs more education? Realistically this must be something short-term and likely will be certificate or micro-credential based. This learner does not have time for a four-year degree program. Months, and preferably weeks, are all they have to engage in condensed learning.
What does that look like?
First of all, a quick browse of the internet will bring up a variety of education options in a number of fields. The question becomes, how does one educator stand out from another? The short term training market is a crowded one - but at the end of the day, the certificate or credential received needs to mean something to the learner. They must be able to turn it into currency they can use to land a job.
At the moment, this is done through established frameworks, something we discussed in our series, Untangling the Modern Credential Marketplace, or through company education. Here is a quick look at both:
For the sake of this discussion, we’ll refer you back to our article, Frameworks - Proving Capability, Skill and Competency, that specifically addressed this topic. However, a brief overview tells us this:
The point for our current set of learners, is that there may be traditional education solutions, even short-term certificate programs offered within the traditional frameworks, apart from full degree programs.
Truth be told, most digital badging and micro-credential advancements are happening outside of the traditional educational frameworks and are being run by companies like IBM, Google, and others. The reasons are multiple, and ones we addressed in our previous blog series. The primary ones are financial and the legacy regulations of traditional frameworks:
Where are these programs available? IBM has their own internal certification program as does Google. Even Tesla recently announced you don’t need a college degree to work for them. “Move to Austin and come work for me,” Elon Musk said. “No degree required. We will train you.”
In conclusion for these learners - it used to be that learners had time - they could entertain the idea of a four-year degree, even make a couple of false starts and eventually graduate and move into a job or career of their choice. Money was also negotiable: some schools were affordable or covered by certain funding programs, and for others, particularly in the US, it simply meant debt they could replay once they took on an established job.
For these learners, neither time or money are abundant. They need to be reskilled now. Both governments and companies want them to reskill quickly and find gainful employment - and for similar reasons. For the government, the tax base is only increased by skilled workers who earn wages that are taxed; it’s about money.
For companies, it is about filling positions with qualified candidates. An empty position means reduced production and revenue. As Apple says, “Our most valuable asset is our people.” Without the right people with the right skills in place, companies are hamstrung and lost.
And this is why we are having these discussions. It’s essential to create a decentralised but verifiable framework that turns these certificates and credentials into something the learner can carry, either in a digital wallet or some other type of comprehensive learner record that an employer can verify and validate quickly and easily. This is also why programs like OECD and their learning compass exist.
For these learners, their need is urgent. Educators, employers and governments must rise to the challenge of providing pathways for them to upskill quickly. Otherwise a vast resource will remain displaced and untapped.
Final key thought: there are options - and its the alternative forms of education they’re turning to. If this is the case, educators need to prioritise how they're going to differentiate themselves in a very crowded marketplace. Join in the discussion by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below. We can't wait to hear your concerns, thoughts and ideas.
Credentialate assesses, monitors, promotes and validates learners’ attainment of evidence-backed skills, supporting the transition from learner to earner. It is a secure, configurable platform that assesses and tracks attainment of competencies and issues micro-credentials in a digital badge to students.
In this blog series, we will focus on the key Stakeholders in the Modern Credential Marketplace - who they are, what drives them and what challenges and opportunities they face.
Margo’s in-depth knowledge and experience of micro-credentialing is the result of working in and with higher education providers and edtech leaders, nationally and internationally. She is passionate about the positive impact of technology within education and the enablement of lifelong learning and agility. Margo is a connector at heart and is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in all areas of life.