As we navigate today’s competitive job market alongside the growing demand for skilled labor and heightened questions over college ROI, it is increasingly clear that higher education and the workforce are two sides of the same coin. In other words, higher ed should be preparing students to succeed in the workplace, while employers should consider preparing employees to succeed in education.
Education and gaining new skills are lifelong endeavors, and it’s in every employer’s interest to prioritize continued learning within their workforce. Additionally, providing workforce development could help improve employee retention.
In fact, in a recent workforce survey by Strategic Education, Inc, 83% of respondents said they believe employers should be investing in employees’ continued education and 62% of respondents who indicate they feel incomplete, stagnant, frustrated and/or uninspired at their current job believe they would feel better about their current job if their employer paid for workforce training or continuing education. The survey also found that 44% of respondents say they must continue their education to remain competitive in the modern workforce, and 34% say they must continue their education to earn a promotion.
Employers can cultivate continued learning and upskilling, while making employees feel valued, by elevating workplace learning and training so that it may be eligible for classroom course credit(s) that could be used toward a degree or certificate through credit for prior learning or CPL.
How can you help support credit for prior learning in your workplace?
CPL can help bridge the workplace and education and can be a powerful practice for employers and employees. With CPL, learners can document existing knowledge and skills through written assessments and/or portfolios of work, and in exchange, they could receive college credit for their knowledge gained outside of formal instruction in higher ed. CPL has long been associated with better student outcomes for adult learners, including higher credential completion and cost and time savings.
At any given moment, employees are participating in trainings—from management academies to technical workshops. Employers, who may be investing a lot of money in these trainings, can help make these even more valuable to employees by restructuring so that they may be eligible for college credit.
To help position workplace training to be eligible for college credit, employers should consider these questions:
- Does the training reflect college-level learning? Academic credit at an accredited institution reflects college-level learning. When reviewed by a university, workplace training must be at least at the level of undergraduate first-year coursework. Some training might be more advanced, say at the college junior or senior level. Other training programs, maybe those which require employees to have a bachelor’s degree, might even be deemed equivalent to master-level coursework. While there is no official definition of college-level learning, it usually involves acquiring new information, engaging in critical inquiry, and analyzing, synthesizing, integrating, and applying the new information. When designing workplace training to reflect college-level learning, resources such as Bloom’s Taxonomy may be helpful.
- What are the learning objectives? Employers should develop a description of the training with clear objectives of the subject matter that is being taught to the employee (also known as the curriculum), the format (how it will be presented), and competencies the employee will have obtained after having completed the training. It should outline how much time an employee will spend on the training. Is this a two-hour shadowing and practice session with a team lead so that the employee will be able to key in a customer’s order without error in less than 80 seconds, or is it a weekly, 1-hour management course session for 6-months to improve workflow in their department?
- How can attendance be documented? Colleges are likely to require verification that the individual engaged in the training program. Therefore, it’s important that the employer have documentation of attendance in the training and dates, along with hours, of when the employee engaged in and/or completed the training program. Having a check-in, required attendance, and/or electronic verification of participation may be a key factor in whether an education institution is able to offer academic credit for the employee training.
- How can we prove the employee attained the intended outcome? Did they simply spend 10 minutes clicking through slides? Were they able to list the dipping sauces or enter in the order and return exact change for the purchase? The only way to be sure of the outcome is to have an assessment of learning—an objective measurement (assessment) that was implemented for any employee who completed the training. This should demonstrate the individual achieved the learning outcomes at an acceptable level. A minimum performance threshold and a score assigned to this measure will help demonstrate to the educational institution that some type of learning/education occurred because of the training program. Work with your higher education provider to see if they are willing to consult with you to develop an assessment that measures the efficacy of their training as well as the mastery of the intended skills and objectives.
We have moved far beyond the era of an individual’s path always being education followed by their career. Today, and into the future, we can expect further integration of work and education, with one impacting the other. Just as higher education has a responsibility to ensure learning is relevant in the workplace, employers should ensure that work is portable to learning.