Labor Market Shifts Create Greater Role for Non-Credit DivisionsKathleen Radionoff | Dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Education, Madison Area Technical College
Enrollment in non-credit technical and skill courses has increased over the past ten years. The growing popularity of non-credit postsecondary education is caused by significant structural changes in the job market and the nature of employment in the knowledge economy. These changes in turn have altered the educational and training needs of incumbent and transitional adult workers.
The first major trend change is the fluid career track of workers. For at least the past two decades, the majority of workers no longer expect to stay in with one employer for their entire career. The change has been accelerating with the Millennial cohort of workers. In a 2016 interview with Bloomberg magazine, Morgan Stanley’s Global Wealth Management Vice Chairman Carla Harris estimated that Millennial workers will have four to five distinctive careers in their lifetime. These workers will require additional training beyond their primary college credential to effectively navigate between employers and among different career paths. At Madison College, we have experienced an enrollment increase in our non-credit certificate programs such as Nonprofit Management. These adult students are actively seeking out training to enable them to transition into completely new careers.
A second trend is the dramatic reversal of expected retirement ages in the United States. Gallup conducted a retirement survey in 2015 and found that 37 percent of current non-retired workers expected to retire after the age of 65. In 1995, only 14 percent of current non-retired workers indicated that they expected to retire after the age of 65. Some of these older workers will seek out credit coursework to remain current in their jobs, but more will likely seek out alternative non-credit training to keep up their skills. Non-credit, short-term training allows these older adult students to unbundle longer credit courses into targeted, discrete skills sets. Non-credit coursework is cost efficient and time effective for students who are employed in full-time jobs.
The third major trend is the growing numbers of workers who work part-time, are contract workers or who freelance from project to project. Project Solo estimates that 53 million workers in the United States are either working part-time, freelancing or are engaged in contract work. Project Solo has concluded that this is not the result of a weak post-recession economy. Rather, they believe that this is a major transition from an economic model based on traditional full-time employment with one employer to a new model of workers who design their own jobs and take on projects that they find of interest. The problem with this new employment model is worker training. How are self-employed workers going to obtain access to skills training as contract and part-time workers typically do not receive on-the-job training from an employer. These workers will need to seek out training on their own, and they frequently access non-credit courses and workshops.
A final change is that a single college credential in no longer adequate. Adults require lifelong learning to maintain skills in the face of continual changes in technology and work methodology. Employers do not always provide on the job education so workers must find other venues for training. The training format must be compatible with their work schedule. Online modules and short-term evening non-credit classes are effective in meeting these training needs as they provide students with microcredentials that can be shown to employers. At Madison College, we have been awarding microcredentials in the form of digital badges for almost five years. The badges communicate to the employer who awarded the credential, what skill sets the student has demonstrated and how long the credential is valid. Madison College badges can be shared via email or social media platforms, and can be added to a LinkedIn profile.
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Carla-Harris-millennials-will-have-four-or-five-careers. (2016, March 15). Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-03-15/carla-harris-millennials-will-have-four-or-five-careers
Riffkin, R. (2015, April 29). Americans Settling on Older Retirement Age. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/182939/americans-settling-older-retirement-age.aspx
The Solo City 2016 Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thesoloproject.com/welcome-1#summary