How should learning providers take advantage of trends behind the boom in education benefits?

The war for talent continues to define the future of work—and the future of learning. 

While companies are always competing to attract and retain talent, the hiring stakes deemed a “war for talent” have accelerated. This is due to increased competition outside of traditional geography as a result of remote work, as well as a significant labor shortage accelerated by the pandemic.

The impacts of the great resignation are growing. In particular, women continue to drop out of the workforce in droves— In September, 300,000 more women left the paid labor force. Many workers want more flexibility, are drawn to more diversified employer benefits, and crave a tangible vision for career mobility. Overall, the economy is undergoing major changes. Dynamics are quickly stacking as these labor trends compound on one another. 

 

Learning providers have a major role to play on the battlefield of the war for talent.

Not only can education providers provide more economic mobility for diverse learners, but they are also well-poised to influence the future of work. As more of the nation’s largest employers like Amazon and Target offer their workers the ability to gain an education on their dime, new expectations are emerging. Workers are driving shifts in the workplace, and they are also noticing the boom happening with education benefits, highlighting for employers systems that attract talent. 

 

Not all education benefits are equitable.

Different models used for education benefits produce outcomes for students, and best in class programs are built to serve working adults. For example, tuition assistance (TA)—where employers cover the cost of the benefit up-front, delivers more student interest than tuition reimbursement (TR)—where employers reimburse employees for the cost of the education after the student has initially paid. In fact, 88% of prospective students Guild works with through employers cite the TA benefit as a reason they are now enrolling in school. Tuition assistance models can be more inclusive for low and middle income Americans who can’t make the choice to front the money to go back to school, or who have to put it on credit cards and take on debt to do so. 

Educational attainment is among the strongest predictors of economic mobility. Former Guild student, Courtney Stingley, offers a great example. At Walmart, Courtney had wanted to move into a higher position as a logistics load manager and had “applied and applied and applied . . . [but] was constantly getting turned down.” Disheartened, but persistent, Courtney took advantage of his education benefit and gained new skills through his coursework at Bellevue. When another opening for logistics load manager was posted, Courtney showcased his new learning on his application. Three weeks after finishing his degree in logistics and supply chain, Courtney got the call saying, “we would like to offer the position to you.” Courtney believes, “without Guild Education and Walmart, being able to have this position would not have been possible.” Having TA to help him achieve his degree “was like standing in a hallway with so many doors and having a set of keys to go through every one of them if I wanted to.”

Tuition assistance programs drive stronger adoption and outcomes, particularly among frontline populations. Among Guild students, there is 2x higher adoption of TA vs. TR benefits among frontline workers. As a result, learning partners are able to educate more students. When employers invest in debt-free programs and choose to build their education benefits using tuition assistance, students who may not have enrolled if they had to front the money themselves, are much more likely to use their benefit and enroll in a learning program. 

 

Employers recognize they have a DE&I imperative—Quality education benefits can help them meet these goals.

As more working adults are enrolling in school, and half of all college students are taking online courses, quality education programs can help workers gain new skills within the classroom that help them upskill in the workplace. These programs empower working adult learners to showcase themselves as the diverse talent employers are in need of. 

Creating new processes and systems that place a greater focus on adult learners also help address educational attainment inequities for racial and ethnic minorities for educational attainment. Adult students age 25 and older, who are currently without postsecondary credentials, are disproportionately Black, Hispanic, and Native American. The more learning partners can serve working adult learners, the wider the pool for diverse talent in the workforce. In this way, academic institutions are able to influence our society’s economic opportunities.

 

A durable skills framework equips students with an understanding of how their skills can translate across contexts.

As a framework, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills fails to acknowledge the critical interplay between skill types. In today’s economy —jobs rely on lifelong learning to keep pace with new ideas, technologies, and innovations. A durable skills framework makes understanding how skills relate and build from one another essential for the learning provider, essential for the employer, and most importantly— it is essential for the student.

Institutions can burnish their value by partnering with employers looking to implement education benefits.

Workers need reskilling as shifts in the economy evolve. In-demand skills that are aligned to career pathways are skills with a distinct power to translate across roles and contexts. Learning providers that articulate, teach, and assess aligned skills communicate to employers that they are meeting crucial employment needs. Institutions with high adoption rates and measured student outcomes communicate to employers that their investment in education benefits is likely to have meaningful outcomes for both students and the company.

 

To communicate value, learning providers should focus on a demonstrated willingness to adapt.

Remaining competitive doesn’t always require a reinvented wheel, but it does require constant resource evaluation. Student-centered learning providers develop responsive articulation practices such as offering stackable credentials that map to degrees and provide clarity on career pathways. Similarly, credit for training honors the working adult learner by recognizing the value of perspectives and professional experiences WALs bring to their ongoing education. In turn, students are empowered and freshly equipped for their own role in the war for talent. 

Within Guild’s Learning Marketplace, learning partners provide examples of ways in which these innovations take shape. For example, Purdue Global provides a variety of ways to recognize students’ diverse learning through offering credit for training, credit by portfolio, as well as credit for certifications. Additionally, efforts are given to map prior learning to courses within degree programs—allowing for all learning to count and stack. Dedicated resources and staffing make these practices possible. As a result, students earn credit for what they already know, making it a flexible and responsive option for adult learners.

Written by Acacia Fante