WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
Learning programs are being updated to better match employer needs.
By Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP
The single most important trait I seek in job candidates is inquisitiveness. But it goes beyond mere curiosity. That’s a great quality, but it doesn’t equal results. When filling a key role, I
want someone whose aim is not only to learn but also to apply that
Many leaders say they link
learning to work. They call me to
talk about their programs, apprenticeships, internships, externships,
cross-functional work assignments
and more. This movement to blend
learning with workplace initiatives is
a developing trend.
But wait. That concept sounds pretty close to on-the-job training and the
like, which are as old as work itself. So
what’s new about recent programs?
Here are three diferences:
Employers are initiating the arrangements. Today’s leaders aren’t
afraid to ask for what they want.
In the past, successful work-and-learn programs were often based on
initiatives launched by educational
institutions, such as community
colleges. Now, more executives are
asking those schools to develop training programs that match their core
business needs. Gone are the days
when academia could be counted
on to generate the “right” workers to
meet marketplace demands.
Educators are seeing the value
of developing skills that improve
employability. Many educational
institutions sell the notion of a degree
as a ticket to career success. That’s
based on the premise that graduates
will have acquired certain knowledge
and skills as part of their course of
study. But educational programs are
not necessarily designed to meet the
needs of employers or even consum-
ers. That can be a problem for today’s
students, many of whom are looking
to use what they’ve learned in school
to build their careers.
To that end, innovative leaders
at universities and private companies are experimenting with new
ways to help people become more
employable. The teams at Burning
Glass Technologies, a Boston-based
labor market analytics company, and
other information aggregators, for
instance, are quantifying the value of
key skills in the job market. And administrators at Purdue University are
reimagining the educational experience to better refect what students
want from it. For example, the Purdue Polytechnic Institute established
a competency-based degree program
with individualized learning plans
and close faculty mentoring. The aim
is to prepare students with the skills
businesses need today.
STEM isn’t just for STEM careers
anymore. Today, more and more jobs
require analytics and the consumption of data—endeavors that used
to be the sole province of science,
and math (STEM) careers.
Would anyone have argued
30 years ago that HR was
such a profession? With the
advent of predictive ana-
lytics and talent insights,
HR professionals must be
labor market economists; as such, we
are STEM workers, too. That’s just
one example. An increasing number
of jobs require these talents, and ed-
ucators and employers are providing
I used to shrug of work-and-learn
programs as irrelevant to me. Now I
see their value more than ever. Have
you instituted them in your company?
More importantly, how? Is work-and-learn being used to drive sustainabil-ity? If you’re not asking these questions, the future of your organization
is hanging in the balance.
Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP, is chief knowledge
officer for SHRM.