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What the Pandemic is Teaching Workforce Education January 3, 2021

by Brittany Collins

COVID-19 has touched education in numerous ways, particularly with technology. As a result, organizations are eagerly exploring new education technology solutions as pandemic-related challenges emerge and priorities shift.

Online learning has taken center stage during the pandemic. Of course, schools, universities and corporations are rapidly adopting online learning. It’s also being used for an increasing number of unemployed and under-employed adult workers, as layoffs continue and unemployment claims climb over 45 million.

Rethink Education, an education technology venture capital firm, wanted to dig a little deeper. They conducted interviews with workforce training and enterprise learning stakeholders on current pandemic difficulties and the role that edtech can play to address those challenges – and beyond.

They found that, unlike with previous recessions, unemployed adults are not pursuing traditional higher education to position themselves for a comeback. Although low-wage workers are often overlooked by both current and future employers if they do not have a higher education degree, the necessity for quick, affordable options is growing. The race is on to meet the rising demand to equip people with practical skills that will end in a job placement.

To address this gap, innovations such as Next Chapter, a joint effort between Guild Education and some of the nation’s largest companies and academic institutions, are emerging to connect displaced workers with job opportunities and skills development. Employers can offer their furloughed or laid-off workers access to an online platform with reskilling programs and hands- on coaching designed to “upskill” employees into higher paying roles.

Another solution is career certificate programs which allow an employee to better leverage their “power skills” – “…the skills of the future are not technical, they’re behavioral” – and equivalencies in education, while also enabling an employer to assess an employee’s fit and competency.

As it pertains to enterprise learning, companies find themselves looking for more scalable options instead of the typical classroom-based training. Coursera, an open online course provider, is seeing 70% growth year-to-year in its enterprise business alone. While watching video content is one way of learning, another growing demand is to make it more engaging and efficient by adding simulations and other reality-based training that complement current workflow.

Companies are also looking to incorporate skills mapping and talent development into their HR systems. Doing so provides valuable insight into suggesting relevant training and resources for each employee to better prepare for higher wage roles.

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