The importance of higher education is very evident at this current time. The pandemic is continuing to impact people’s employment and job security, and political strife is creating unease in people’s lives. In spite of volatile situations, there is a way for people to take control of their lives. Acknowledging the importance of higher education, and acting on that knowledge creates opportunities for American workers to be secure in the labor market.
The idea that Americans need higher education to be successful in the job market is not new. But today, more and more people are ready to take action and equip themselves with skills and knowledge they need to succeed. The first WorkingNation American Workers Survey from research company FIL gives insight into this.
Americans feel unprepared for changes that are happening in the workplace: 63 percent believe they don’t have the skills they need. Looking at the overall picture, 40 percent believe that skill obsolescence and lack of aligned skills are a cause for significant concerns. A recent Strada Education survey reinforces the fact that Americans know the importance of higher education. That survey showed that 35 percent of people responding to the survey said they need more skills in their current field to get a similar job and 34 percent said they would need more skills to move into a new career field. Americans are open to a variety of education programs to accommodate their higher education needs: 70 percent think it is critical to be certified in technology or trade skills and 30 percent think a bachelor’s degree is critical.
Whether workers pursue degree completion or alternative credentials such as certificates, the importance of higher education is clear. In a degree programs half or more of a student’s credits may be in general education courses that develop students reading and writing, communication skills and critical thinking. These are resilient skills that will keep workers employed and offer opportunities for career growth. Short-term credentials help workers learn new skills that help them adapt to changes in the labor market. The pandemic has created new ways to serve customers and produce goods and services. Adapting to new methods means that workers must be resilient and have skills that they can apply to new circumstances.
Businesses that offer employees opportunities to pursue higher education and upgrade their skills will benefit in the long run. But the importance of higher education to too great to leave to chance. Even though many businesses, such as Edcor clients, offer tuition benefits to their employees, more than half of the workers surveyed in the WorkingNation survey said they are not aware of any programs that help them gain skills that are in demand. Making employees aware of the benefits they can use to gain education is more important than ever as the pandemic and technology bring fast-moving changes to the workplace.
Workers need to be secure in their jobs and employers need to cultivate talent they already have on board. Encouraging workers to develop a career path and align it with education plans will result in employees that are top performers. “There’s strong evidence that employees who take advantage of education benefits outperform their peers,” said Taylor Chapman, principal at SEI Ventures. “In fact, results from LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report show that talent developers, executives and people managers agree that providing resources to enable talent is crucial to the business. There is a consensus that learning and development programs are a necessary benefit to employees.”
The importance of higher education for both employees and employers is evident in the fast-changing marketplace and shaky economy. Employers will benefit from promoting use of tuition benefits and gain a productive workforce. Employees will be able to gain employment security. Among the WorkingNation survey respondents 72 percent want “careers” vs. 28 percent who want “jobs.” And 75 percent of American workers are optimistic that they will ultimately achieve a middle class lifestyle through work. Understanding the importance of higher education and promoting tuition assistance for employees can help stabilize businesses and develop productive workers.
By Adrienne Way, Edcor CEO and Owner
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