Even as institutions of higher education discuss how they might best meet needs of students in the future through traditional degree-based modalities, they face increased pressure to take an active role in the upskilling and reskilling of individuals, both those in the workforce and those attempting to gain skills to either get back in or progress to more stable and higher paying employment.
For the purposes of the current discussion, upskilling relates to advanced knowledge/skills needed within a job sector, whereas reskilling relates to a completely different set of knowledge/skills for a different job sector. While community colleges have taken a lead in addressing the needs for a changing workforce, there is a critical need for universities to play a much greater role, including through initiatives such as offering certificates, credentials, and certifications both built into degrees and offered separately, as well as enabling greater flexibility in offerings, modalities of instruction, and structure.
Key steps that could be taken by universities to specifically address the aspects of reskilling and upskilling the current workforce include the following:
1. Identify, shape, and execute programs in partnership with the corporate and workforce development sectors. While universities have a lot to offer, it is critical that programs be developed in conjunction with corporate partners, chambers of commerce, and regional workforce development agencies. This will help ensure that the appropriate areas of current high workforce need are identified and that the offerings are changed/updated to meet rapidly changing needs. Further, the curricula will need, in most cases, to be shaped to respond not just to needs for academic knowledge but also its direct application within the chosen areas where reskilling/upskilling is needed. Its important to keep in mind that the need is for rapid implementation in ways that employees can “hit the ground running” with the new knowledge and skills rather than having to again be trained to fit in the workforce.
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