What is Workforce Development & Online Learning
By Staff Writers
Published on July 23, 2021
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Workforce Development Training Programs
In today's economy, workforce development and continuing education fuel growth. They ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge to support current and future businesses and industries. These skills, however, also benefit workers themselves, giving them the tools they need to be successful and competitive in the workplace. Learn about workforce development basics, why everyone should look for continuing education opportunities, and where to find them.
Meet the Author
Abby HermanAbby Herman is a writer and journalist with years of experience covering topics in higher education and workforce development. A former classroom teacher and corporate-world professional, Abby also has first-hand knowledge of continuing education and its benefit to both employees and employers. From required teacher recertification to voluntary communication classes, Abby has experienced professional development from multiple perspectives.
Across the world and across all industries, a successful business – and economy – is dependent on educated, highly skilled workers. But how does one gain the necessary skills to keep up with a demanding and changing job market? Many experts agree the answer lies in workforce development.
The goal of workforce development is to enhance the skills of those already in the workforce as well as provide tangible and relevant skills to those looking for employment. From courses at a community college to certificate programs at a technical school to on-the-job training, individuals can find a diverse selection of workforce development opportunities to meet their professional goals.
Who Needs Workforce Development?
According to the White House, as of July 2014, some 3.1 million Americans have been unemployed long-term and struggle to find jobs that match their existing skillset. Likewise, many employers in a range of industries and sectors say they cannot find skilled workers to fill their current job openings and grow their businesses. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of the last day of business in July 2014, there were 4.7 million job openings across the country. There is no doubt that a skills gap exists in today's workforce, and economists and policymakers both agree that the solution to this problem is education and training.
While workforce development opportunities are ideal for the unemployed, they also greatly benefit those in the following categories.
Workforce Development at Colleges and Beyond
A report from the National Association of Counties(NACO) showed that leaders are increasingly investing in education and workforce preparedness to better support current and future economic needs as well as improve job opportunities for workers. Furthermore, as trends and innovations continue to evolve, workers will need on-going education and training to keep pace with economic demands. Because of this increased focus on job readiness, professionals looking to acquire new, tangible skills have numerous workforce development options from which to choose. The following is a review of some of the most common options:
Most Common Sectors for Workforce Development
While workforce development and continuing education can be beneficial in any and all fields, it is more common – and sometimes a requirement – for certain professions and sectors. In some industries and licensed professions, such as healthcare, education and architecture, continuing education is a licensure requirement that is mandated by employers, certification bodies, professional organizations and licensing boards. Other industries, such as information technology, change so quickly that continuing education is essential to stay on top of current trends and developments. By participating in a workforce development program at a community college or enrolling in continuing education courses elsewhere, workers can meet these licensure demands and stay current in their industries.
Below is a review of some of the sectors where workforce development is most common, as well as some of the certificates available for each sector:
|1. Business||Early childhood|
English language immersion
|2. Education||Early childhood|
English language immersion
|3. Energy||Line workers|
Natural gas technician
Power plant technician
|4. Health||Wellness management|
Electronic health records
|5. Hospitality||Culinary arts|
|6. Information Technology||Network technologies|
Cloud computing certificates
Machining and metalworking
|9. Transportation||Fleet management|
Signal and lighting
Onsite & Online College Workforce Programs
With the wide range of workforce development options available, it is no surprise that courses and programs can be found through a variety of sources. Take a look at some of the common places where workers gain invaluable skills and development training:
While the above are the most common sources of workforce development opportunities, individuals can also seek training and development through professional organizations, trade unions, nonprofit organizations, and federal, state or local government.
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The Benefits of Workforce Development
As mentioned, workforce development is an essential component for economic growth and development and, therefore, offers a number of benefits to employees, organizations and society.
A Happy and Productive Worker
"There's a rapid change in skills needed in the workforce. Having access to affordable training is necessary."Maureen Herbert, Director of the Office of Continuing Education & Workforce Development at Vermont Technical College
Whether mandated or purely voluntary, the benefits of workforce development and continuing education are far worth an individual's investment in time and, sometimes, money. Not only do workers gain tangible skills and knowledge to move into new or advanced roles, they also acquire relevant skills that help keep them competitive in the ever-changing job market and economy. Workforce training can also help an individual make the jump into a new career. For example, many workers choose to jump start their career through technical training, rather than earn an associate or bachelor's degree. A professional certificate can make them eligible for a variety of jobs.
Daymyan Rice, a stylist and nail technician, chose to earn her cosmetology license for different reasons. Rice was looking to get out of the banking industry and, after being a nail technician for 15 years, decided to take her career further. For Rice, the ability to complete training and licensure requirements in a short amount of time was key. "You are quickly and intensely trained and prepared for a very specific job or career and you can complete this training in a relatively short amount of time."
Another benefit, notes Rice, is that the licensure program is highly focused. “You don’t have all the extra ‘fluff’ courses. You are completely focused on the career objective.”
An employee may also choose to obtain training or attend a certificate program in an effort to build upon existing skills and further their career. According Singh, workforce development is a great way for employees to practice what they've learned. "Individuals learn not just the theoretical, but also the practical implications. A traditional degree can give one knowledge and understanding, but does not necessarily make them employable."
A Growing and Successful Business
With resources still tight at many companies, managers may be hesitant to let workers spend several days or even weeks and months on training or professional development. Businesses, however, can benefit from providing training courses and programs to employees. Some of the most significant advantages include:
Lastly, a short-term investment in professional development can save time and money in the long run. Being able to target specific areas of training and development means that employees learn company-specific skills (e.g. company procedures and industry regulations or software/tools and other technologies) that are needed to grow the business and meet goals. Highly functional team members are more productive and can also mentor other workers to help them become high performing employees.
When it comes to development, Miner touts custom-designed training, because it targets the employees' specific job duties and is more meaningful in the long run.
“It’s immediately actionable,” says Miner. “Employees learn skills they can put to use tomorrow. They know why they’re learning something and it teaches them to think.” Miner goes on to explain that when businesses offer workforce development specific to an individual’s job and in real-world situations, they learn how to problem-solve and think things through.
Adaptability is also key – if the industry changes, which often happens, the skilled and trained employee is able to grow and change alongside the business. And since colleges – and other institutions who offer workforce development courses – know that this change is consistent, they too continually update their programs to bring the newest courses and information possible.
A Thriving Economy
"Most businesses that want to grow want to help employees engage in their jobs at a new level, especially if they have been in the role [for a long time]."Katherine Morosani, Director of Asheville Center for Professional Studies
Highly educated, trained and skilled workers are the backbone of any workforce so it's no surprise that when employees thrive, so do businesses and the overall economy.
"People with money then can purchase what Americans make. Taxes are paid and the country does better as a whole. We then begin to create, sustain and transfer generational wealth for ourselves and our families"Theo Nix, Jr., Esq.
Developing Skills through Online Education
Much like in higher education, online learning is changing the way workers, businesses and economic leaders approach workforce development. From MOOCs to accelerated certificate programs to hybrid degree options from colleges and universities, online education offers flexibility to busy adult and non-traditional learners. In fact, according to the Department of Labor, this flexibility and non-traditional approach seems to be one of the factors for success within job training and development programs.
There are more than 2,400 massively online open courses
currently available in the US.
Although there are online continuing education and workforce development options for several different fields, certain areas lend themselves more easily to online learning than others. For example, computer and information technology, media and design, management, and business are generally more suitable for online learning as assignments and coursework for these fields can all be done independently, with little or no hands-on training. Colleges and workforce development organizations that offer online courses, workshops and certificate programs allow students to view course material online and interact with instructors and peers electronically. Students can generally complete classes at their own pace, allowing them to take care of professional and personal responsibilities while preparing for or furthering their career. Additionally, for those who are still working while learning, the combination of classroom training and real world experience helps bridge the gap between theory and practice. Curricula are more relevant and students have a firmer grasp on course material.
Some fields, however, require at least some component of hands-on learning. Examples of such industries include skilled trades, industrial, healthcare, fitness and teaching. Development for skilled trades tends to operate on a learning-by-doing approach. For example, auto mechanics, construction workers, carpenters and the like can only become experts in their respective fields by being actively involved in the work. While some components of the courses may be completed online, these students should expect to also complete a hands-on requirement.
Additional Resources for Workforce Development
- Association for Continuing Education
This non-profit organization partners with organizations in the San Francisco Bay area in meeting the needs of today's adult learners.
- Career One-Stop
Also called American Job Centers, One-Stop Career Centers are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. It offers help with training, unemployment benefits and additional resources.
- Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
Visitors can take skills assessments, get help drafting a resume, find training opportunities and more.
- Continuing Education U, Inc.
Offers classroom instruction for electrical trainees, journeymen, plumbers and HVAC.
- Continuum Health Partners Office of Continuing Education
This NYSNA-approved provider of continuing education for nurse education offers both online and face-to-face training opportunities.
The organization's annual conference is in October 2014, where participants can explore how organizations and improving the bottom line through workforce development.
- Graduate School USA
This private, not-for-profit institution provides training and workforce development for the government and private sector.
- Kentucky Cabinet for Heath and Family Services
The Education and Workforce Development Branch of the Kentucky government provides training to employees of various health system partners.
- National Association of County & City Heath Officials
NACCHO offers workshops and trainings to ensure local health departments have access to a competent workforce.
- National Institute for Literacy
A collection of resources and professional development networks for adult educators.
- N.C. Department of Commerce
Provides training and professional development to the state of North Carolina.
- Pikes Peak Workforce Center
Colorado-based PPWFC's mission is to connect "vital businesses with work-ready job seekers and employer-driven services." Youth programs are also available.
- Pure Michigan Workforce Development Agency
This organization assists structurally unemployed individuals in the state of Michigan receive the training needed to gain employment.
- Refugee Social Services
This program supports refugees as they seek the training and experience to attain viable employment. State agencies also exist to assist on a more local level.
- State Rapid Response Coordinators
These individuals coordinate services for those affected by large-scale layoffs. They work with employers and employee representatives to assist workers in relocation and reemployment.
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development
The Adult Education division encourages adults to become self-sufficient by providing the training and basic education needed to complete their education and to become marketable in the workforce.
- The New School
Offers continuing education opportunities in New York City for everything from starting your own business to learning a new skill.
- The Training Doctor, LLC
A provider of workforce development training for more than 25 years, this organization works with companies to help them improve customer service, adapt to change, develop employee skills and more.
- U.S. Department of Labor
Learn more about the Workforce System and how the Workforce Investment Act and national career centers can assist adults in receiving the training necessary to improve employment prospects.
- U.S. Department of State
With programs for GED testing, college exam prep, public school adult education programs and more, there are learning opportunities for everyone.
- Veterans Employment & Training Service
This federal service helps veterans prepare for careers outside the military by providing resources, training, and information to protect the veterans' employment rights.
- Workforce Strategy Center
The WSC works with employers, education representatives, workforce organizations and others to help pave the way for workforce education and training. The organization conducts research to help advance the field of workforce development.
Part of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, WorkOne helps people gain the training and education necessary to jumpstart a new career and be successful in the current job market.
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