- Penn Foster, a company that partners with employers and education providers to offer employee upskilling opportunities, is expanding its offerings to include skilled trades lessons in areas such as welding, mechanical engineering and electrical maintenance, it announced July 21.
- The curriculum will include "interactive learning aids developed to support different learning styles and boost mastery of foundational and technical skills," according to the statement.
- "The skilled trades have long been overlooked as a driver of social and economic mobility," said Dara Warn, chief customer officer at Penn Foster. "New approaches to both technology and pedagogy can expand access to training in high-demand fields for both workers and employers — in ways that can help chart a path to economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic."
Providing education programs for companies like Subway and Walmart, through its partnership with Guild Education, Penn Foster says it allows employers to offer education benefits that provide workers with transferable skills and upward mobility, typically from low-paying hourly jobs. The announcement said this latest addition will bolster Walmart’s Live Better U employee benefit program, which recently announced an expansion of its own.
In early 2019, Penn Foster made an acquisition in the interest of creating pathways into what it described as "middle-skill" fields, such as veterinary and health care trades. Company CEO Frank Britt previously described middle-skill jobs to HR Dive as those that require education beyond high school that is not a traditional college degree. One benefit of adding middle-skill and skilled trade programs to an education benefit is that they are much shorter than traditional two- or four-year degree offerings.
Skill development appears to be top of mind for many labor market participants, from employers to workers and job seekers. Even before the pandemic, access to education was growing as a benefit offering for the competitive talent landscape of the time. Under current conditions, it may still add to the value proposition of a compensation package, but also can have value as an outplacement service should workforce reductions occur.
Those laid off or furloughed report difficulty finding the right path. A recent survey by LiveCareer found that 58% of the recently unemployed were not confident they could find new jobs where their skills would apply. A similar amount of respondents were unable to identify or communicate their transferable skills and 56% said they were job hunting in the same industry they were working in before.