Employers Are Changing How They View Training. Here are Education Trends They See Coming.

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Many of the largest employers in the country are changing how they approach offering training and education benefits to their employees.

In some cases it’s to respond to how fast technology is advancing, and a sense that workers need retraining more often than than in the past. But it’s also because there’s a bit of an arms race among large employers to offer education perks and a post-pandemic rethink by many employees about what they want from their jobs.

“It’s an employee market—employees are looking for something different from employers,” Catherine Ward, managing director of the nonprofit Jobs for the Future, told a panel this week at the SXSW EDU conference in Austin. “Half of U.S. workers right now—so that’s 100 million workers—believe that in the next five years they’re going to need some sort of new skill to advance in their career. And they’re looking for that learning to not just come from traditional education sources but also from their employer.”

During the panel, representatives from Sam’s Club, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and the credentialing platform Degreed highlighted the trends they’re seeing in workplace learning. Among them:

Employees will demand learning directly tied to jobs. “If it doesn’t lead to a job, it means nothing to that employee,” argued Kim Gregorie, executive director of Learning & Talent Solutions at JPMorgan Chase.

Data will play a larger role. Employers are increasingly using human capital management systems to help document the skills of employees and help match what they can do to other opportunities that may exist within the organization, added Gregorie, who expects that trend to grow.

Companies will ditch the classroom model in favor of a mobile education approach. At Sam’s Club, some training can be done on handhelds while employees are out in the stores working, noted Jennifer Buchanan, a global learning and talent development executive at the retail giant. She expects more companies to move to that model and away from the idea of gathering in classrooms at fixed times for training.

Degrees will become shorter and stackable. Employers are looking for more short-form courses and programs for employers, so they can obtain new skills without leaving their jobs. Buchanan, of Sam’s Club, predicted that so-called “stackable” credentials—short certificates that can be taken in sequence to count to a larger degree—will grow as a result.

Skills will become king. As companies get better at measuring and tracking skills, pedigree of education will matter less, argued Janice Burns, chief people officer at Degreed. “It’s no longer about who you know and what you know, but what you can do,” she said.

It’s important to note that these are trends according to major employers—and it’s a vision that companies may most want to see, not necessarily what employees would most want. For instance, employees might prefer more options that might lead them to shift to other companies or industries, though a company has less incentive to offer such a benefit.

Correction: This article originally misstated the title of Janice Burns of Degreed.

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