Technological innovations from Robotics to Artificial intelligence are changing the workplace as we know it. While these innovations are dramatically improving productivity and creating millions of jobs, many of which are being created more quickly than people can be trained to fill them. Elevating the technology skills of our workforce and fostering workplace flexibility is critical to developing pathways to these new careers. This can be accomplished through tech-adapted workforce development programs.
We’ve compiled a list of 5 ways technology is transforming workforce development to meet the demands of this new economy.
1. Enabling Distance Learning
COVID-19 kicked distance learning into high gear, but that leap wouldn’t have been possible without the growth and development of distance learning technology over the past few years. It all starts with adoption – 77% of US companies used online learning in 2017, a number that has been trending consistently upward for years. Education institutions have been leading the charge to establish distance learning for over two decades, now half of all college students report taking an online class in the last 12 months.
Increasing Mobility & Equity
For many workers still actively in jobs or for those with schedules that aren’t conducive to commuting, distance allows them to gain skills remotely. Not only does distance learning increase access to training and development opportunities, it helps break down existing barriers to these programs and puts in place the building blocks for more equitable access to training. Distance learning is not without its own concerns, however. In order to maximize its value, accessibility needs to be addressed. There are still 19 million Americans who don’t have access to the internet, not to mention the general lack of accessibility for those with visual impairments or other physical disabilities. Organizations like RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Partnership) and countless others are working to expand internet service to areas without access, but the problem is clear. While technology is making huge impacts in how we can learn, the infrastructure itself still needs work to provide access to those who could benefit the most from these programs.
Room to Grow
Technology is already finding ways to overcome these barriers . Smartphone ownership is starting to outpace broadband access and far outpaces computer ownership giving training programs another opportunity to leverage technology to benefit the largest number of people. As of February 2019, 81% of adults own smartphones, and this hasn’t gone without notice. Some of the largest eLearning companies and training providers have already begun to optimize their platforms around mobile devices. Mobile devices aren’t the solution for everyone though – the remaining 19% of the population without smartphone access still need a sustainable solution for distance learning, and although smartphone ownership is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, there are still plenty of coverage gaps in the same areas that lack broadband access.
2. Getting workers directly connected to career paths
Connecting workers to opportunities is a task uniquely suited to technology. Technology has helped create robust solutions that directly link learning and skills development opportunities with the needs of the workforce – both locally and nationally. It’s not enough, however, for programs to focus on providing skills that get workers on pathways to careers. To ensure program success and employment they should be linked to the projected need. Workforce development technology helps to create centralized locations for job seekers to identify opportunities and the path they need to take to reach them.
Addressing Data Lag
Historically, forecasting demand for positions has been done using lagging data based largely on countrywide trends. The data used to make these projections is often as much as two years old and lacks the specificity needed to make meaningful projections at the local level. Innovations in workforce technology, like AI-powered search engine spiders - have allowed for real-time assessment of local job markets. Getting instant input from the local job market allows for programs to be created and tailored to address actual need, rather than projections and models. This technology simultaneously allows for the evaluation of the programs themselves.
Universities like Carbillo College in California using these technologies found that despite getting countless students credentialed through their programs, a large portion were still not getting hired. Seeing this data in real time allowed Carbillo College to work with the prospective employers to elevate the standards of the program to what the employers were looking for.
3. Creating a personalized environment for job seekers
Workforce development technology provides more utility than simply pairing workers with jobs, it helps job seekers clearly visualize career pathways from education and skills development to job placement. Programs like CareerGPS in Massachusetts leverage regional data on high-demand jobs and connect job seekers with regional training and education programs that provide the skills need for those jobs.
With turnover being one of the highest costs for most organizations, a personalized career path is a good strategy to dramatically improve employee retention. A global recruiting trends study revealed that companies with a “well defined internal mobility program” retained 38% more employees. Using personalized workforce development technology, employees can clearly see their pathway to a position within an organization and get insights into their progress towards their goal. This makes the process transparent for everyone and clearly demonstrates the value of program participation.
Here’s how personalized workforce development technology is positively impacting job-seekers.
- Showing relevant, attainable opportunities.
- Highlighting necessary skills development
- Directly connecting to employers
4. Changing the way we look at skills
We’ve talked a lot about the skills gap and why we need to look differently at skills, competencies and credentials. If you want to read more, you can find our deep dive here.
The main takeaway from that post is jobs that require new skills are being created more quickly than that can be filled. Technology enables us to develop platforms that make available standardized, cross-industry competency assessments to help improve the mobility and efficacy of our workforce. Employees or jobs seekers can get a baseline of their current skillset and see programs available to obtain the skills required for a better paying, more fulfilling job.
Technology has also helped revolutionize Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). States including Massachusetts, Minnesota and West Virginia have implemented online PLA programs that make it possible to easily and efficiently assess life and job experience and turn it into measurable progress towards competencies and credentials.
CAEL Study that included data from 48 institutions found that 56% of students who participated in prior learning assessment programs went on to earn a credential, compared to only 21% for students who did not. PLA is crucial to creating a more accessible and equitable skills and competencies development process and shorter path to career advancement opportunities. Not only do nontraditional paths to credentials work – all data points towards them being more effective for a large portion of students.
By helping change the way we view skills, technology is helping us:
- Improve employee mobility
- Define skill and competency requirements for brand new positions
- Create more equitable and accessible career pathways
5. Helping create data to inform decision-making
Workforce development programs have been instrumental in meeting the nation’s demand for skilled employees. However, like all taxpayer funded initiatives, they face increasing scrutiny and a need to prove their value. Smart workforce development technology allows for data collection that proves ROI for employers, workers, and the organizations and consortiums that create the programs.
The value doesn’t stop there. Workforce development technology also creates a feedback loop that allows programs to optimize spending and better manage offerings. Outdated paper-based and existing inflexible technology stands in the way of maximizing the impact of these critical workforce development programs.
In the earlier example, Cabrillo College used technology to create real-time data to assess the efficacy of credential programs and found clear gaps between training expectations and employer needs. Making better decisions requires having the most accurate and relevant data in front of you, and technology continues to provide that data.
With technology, we can see exactly when, where, and how programs are addressing gaps and getting workers on pathways to careers.
Technology is getting us to the future of work - today.
These are just 5 of the ways that technology is transforming workforce development. As technology and our workforce continue to evolve, there will be even more opportunities to improve workforce development programs and their outcomes while addressing key personnel and skills gaps across the country.
About the Author: Cameron Avrigean
Cameron Avrigean is a Marketing Coordinator at fivestar*. Cameron is an analytics fanatic with a penchant for copywriting and social media. He works with the marketing team to create engaging content, and is looking for the next big thing. Cameron holds a B.S. in Business Management from Point Park University.