Published on 2014/06/10
Graduate Education: Keeping the Workforce Fresh
Graduate credentials are critical for employees to keep pace with the changing and evolving labor market, but this requires institutions to stay on top of industry changes and provide programming to accomplish this goal.
“Education is an economic issue when nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or higher education by the end of this decade. Education is an economic issue when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today will outcompete us tomorrow.”

~President Barack Obama

As economies continue to be reshaped by globalization and as work becomes more complex due to the acceleration of technology, it becomes increasingly challenging for corporations and college graduates to keep pace.

Ideally, education should prepare future employees for long careers that meet constant job market changes and support individual and personalized growth. The only constant during a lifelong career is change.

There is a palpable danger in preparing students for one job, rather than creating an education base that enables students (and future employees) across an entire career. Companies that understand this are willing to partner and invest in the education of their employees, not only as a retention tool but also as a tool to increase productivity and breadth. There are many studies by organizations such as the American Management Association and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that show the costs of a bad hire and/or training new hires are significant. In addition, an overwhelming majority of graduates work in fields unrelated to their degrees, and they’re changing jobs more frequently as new professions and technologies continue to emerge. They’re now required to obtain advanced education in some form at more frequent and variable moments throughout their lifetime.

Graduate credentials are one way to enable advanced learning that allows professionals to continue working while creating in-depth and theoretical knowledge in a new area.

The credential flooding we have seen in recent years creates a climate where the issue of value is confusing. Graduate certificate programs add the most value for students who need advanced learning in a flexible format to take on a new role or learn a new technical skill without leaving their jobs. For example, the biotechnology industry is a truly multi-disciplinary area where you will find students with degrees in the sciences or engineering, or graduate degrees in mechanical engineering, who then realize they need further education in new trends in biological sciences or medical sciences to move to the next level of their careers. In many cases, engineers or scientists have great education in in-depth areas and, because of their individual performances, they’re promoted to lead teams or business units. This is another example where adding theoretical background in areas such as organizational behavior, leadership, etc. can add immense value for both the employee and employer.

Comparing graduate degrees to graduate certificates is not simple. The best programs include courses that are a sub-set of their graduate degree programs or programs built to give students a theoretical foundation in a new, emerging area or in an area that has become relevant for them in their current career path or if they’re looking for a career change. At Stanford University’s School of Engineering, the Stanford Center for Professional Development extends both part-time master’s degrees and graduate certificates to industry professionals. We have seen that the majority of students pursuing either a graduate certificate or part-time master’s degrees are working professionals over 25 years of age and who already possess an advanced degree. As large data sets being generated by almost every industry are growing, new tools and techniques for analyses are required in multi-disciplinary areas. These professionals are continuing to pursue courseware to retool and evolve with an ever-changing economic landscape.

One important question for higher education institutions is: are we prepared for all the changes to come?

Print Friendly
Corporate-Guide-V

Readers Comments

Yvonne Laperriere 2014/06/10 at 7:22 am

Many studies have presented a compelling case for individuals to return to school for a graduate credential, although the form that credential takes is up for debate. As Little notes, there may be some fields that are more amendable to certificates while others may favor degrees. Too often, I see studies espousing the one credential while demonizing the other. In reality, I believe there are opportunities for students in both. It would be interesting to see more empirical studies on the different benefits and limitations of each type of credential.

Vera Matthews 2014/06/10 at 4:03 pm

It’s surprising to me that so many employers now see graduate education as necessary, yet refuse to support their employees when they return to school, either with financial incentives or by creating flexible work opportunities so they can balance school and their job. Prospective students regularly rate prohibitive costs and other (read: work) commitments as their top reasons for turning down further education. If employers are serious about wanting an upgraded workforce, they need to create the conditions in which their employees can do that.

Shaun Wright 2014/06/10 at 4:22 pm

In general, I agree with the distinction Little draws between certificate and degree credentials. One strategy some institutions have adopted to ensure they cover the different types of students who wish to pursue graduate education is to share credits between the two credentials. That way, students could enroll in one program and decide later to switch to the other with relative ease, as their credits would transfer to the other credential.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

[if lte IE 8]
[if lte IE 8]