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September 2, 2020


3 min read

Courses, degrees and pathways: How to find the right mix for your workforce and goals

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When people consider adult education, they often think of traditional options such as bachelor or master degree programs at nearby colleges. Yet today’s workforce has a broad spectrum of available options to learn, build skills and grow as professionals. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends toward online learning and higher education options outside of traditional four-year degree programs.

A recent study found that 71% of US respondents believe “Fewer people will seek out traditional university degrees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Given the changing landscape of post-secondary education, it can be challenging to choose the right education program for your business. The effectiveness of your workforce education program depends on its alignment to not only your business goals, but fluctuations in workforce demand and the current skill level of your company’s talent. You need a variety of learning paths that include degree programs, short-form courses and industry credentials to meet employee needs, close skill gaps and achieve strategic objectives.


Start with your overarching business goals

What are your organization’s highest priorities? You may need to close skill gaps or find new ways to attract top talent, increase employee engagement and reduce turnover. Or perhaps you’re more focused on improving brand perception and driving social impact. Let’s take a look at each of these goals and the types of education programs you’ll need to achieve them.


Upskilling and reskilling

Whether due to new technology, competitor innovation or shifts in business strategy, reskilling and upskilling is a major focus of many businesses and employees today. According to Deloitte, 57 percent of business leaders say that between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities within the next three years. Salesforce recently reported that since COVID-19, 57 percent of workers wish they had a more up-to-date skill set, and 69 percent believe the pandemic will permanently change the nature of work.

Action item: If closing skill gaps is one of your top strategic goals, design an education program that focuses on skill-building and training for specific areas of expertise, and provides short course, certificate and graduate degree opportunities for extremely specialized work. Prepare for the future by building the skills your organization needs with the talent you already have.


Recruitment, engagement and retention

Offering robust career pathways and compelling, ongoing educational opportunities helps candidates see roles at your organization as more than just a job. It supports the perception of your company as a valuable career choice for the long term.

A recent survey showed that 80 percent of employees were interested in going back to school while working. An education program will not only improve candidate recruitment efforts but increase employee engagement and reduce turnover by giving employees meaningful career paths and demonstrating the organization is invested in their future. This is the key to inspiring real commitment to the company, driving better performance, increasing productivity and improving the customer experience.

Action item: To achieve these goals, consider a program that prioritizes undergraduate and graduate degrees. Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree is a lifelong goal for many people, and can be a meaningful, transformative experience for employees’ careers.


Social and brand impact

There are few pathways as life-changing and core to society as education, especially in light of the sweeping job loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent study, 21 percent of adults without a high school degree have already lost their job during the 2020 downturn versus only 6 percent of those with college degrees. Targeting this problem with an education program also equips your organization with a long-term strategy to drive and maintain positive brand perception among potential and current employees, the community and investors.

74 percent of respondents to an Edelman survey on Brand Trust say a brand’s impact on society is a reason why brand trust has become more important.  

As another element of social impact, organizations can also utilize their education program to make progress on diversity and inclusion goals and build skills through anti-bias training. Corporate-sponsored programs can make education more achievable for people who have historically been unable to access or afford education. This not only widens the overall talent pool and expands your workforce planning strategy, but can also improve diversity, equality and inclusion within a company. The net result is enhanced business performance and strengthened brand reputation.

Action item: If social and brand impact are top of mind, create a robust, varied set of degree opportunities and learning paths, including English Language Learning, high school diplomas and pathway programs that help employees gain the necessary prerequisites for admission to higher education programs.


Accomplish your business goals and workforce needs

Most organizations have needs that encompass many of those identified above, and often needs vary from group to group within an organization. InStride’s strategic enterprise educationTM solution accomplishes each of your unique business goals and workforce requirements by allowing for flexible educational offerings that complement your current and future needs. It’s a holistic strategy that makes education accessible at all levels and allows business leaders to drive measurable, sustainable impact across the organization.