In a rapidly changing employment landscape, continuing education is increasingly important. For individuals, it can be the necessary springboard for getting hired after an extended period of unemployment, especially if the job seeker's skill set is becoming obsolete. On the company side, providing learning opportunities for employees fosters engagement and ensures that teams are filled with people who have cutting-edge knowledge.
As a result, the companies that retained or created continuing education programs are steps ahead of the competition, and workers who've spent the time to update their skills are more valuable in the job market.
Expand existing skills
People looking to build on their existing skill sets, whether that means earning certifications, attending workshops or taking classes in an area that's supplemental but not directly related to their careers, have tons of options. According to Kirwan Rockefeller, Ph.D., academic program director at the University of California-Irvine Extension, says people are increasingly seeking professional development to stay current in their industries.
"There may not be a degree in a particular area, like sustainability, but that certificate enhances the person's expertise," he says. "For people making career changes or those who have been laid off, it's about maximizing their strengths and ‘springboarding,' or updating your skill set.
"For the unemployed, education is truly the key to success," he adds. "Employers want to know you've remained up-to-date."
The programming at UC-Irvine also includes free online career planning modules, and Rockefeller will soon launch a webinar series called "Navigating Your Career: How to Stand Out in a Tough Economy." It costs $120 to participate in the five session, and Rockefeller says the difference between the webinar series and the free modules is the amount of personal attention.
"You need to look toward the future and think about where you can go from here," Rockefeller advises job seekers.
Another benefit to continuing education for unemployed job seekers is the opportunity to network. Whether it's virtual or in-person, the classroom gives students the opportunity to meet others who may be able to help them along in their careers. And, quite simply, it can help with the loneliness and lack of engagement that comes with being unemployed, says Ken Hartman, Ph.D., president of Drexel University Online.
Investing in employee success
Continued education isn't just for people who are laid off or looking to switch careers. In fact, among the millennial generation of workers, the opportunity for growth and development within a company recently surpassed pay as their most important factor in deciding whether or not to accept a position.
Many companies have launched innovative programs, some that are essentially schools within companies, that they consider an investment in having the best and the brightest employees.
"At the end of the day, we're only as good as the people we have, and we looked at how you cultivate and invest in talent long-term rather than constantly searching for it," says Allison Kent-Smith, director of digital development at ad agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.
The company offers several different workshops, field trips and pop-up classes that help employees build their tech skills, and there are also sessions for professional development like leadership training.
Even though it's an investment, Kent-Smith says her company looked at offering these programs as something it couldn't afford not to do.
"[Education opportunities] should be the first to stay, not the first to go," she says. "It's absolutely necessary for a competitive advantage. Companies are already spending the money on loss of employees, lack of retention and not being able to attract the right talent."
Source: Chicago Tribune
Posted by Maye Rosales on 1st March 2017