Penn Foster targets 'middle-skill' employee training with acquisition | Penn Foster Press Release

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Penn Foster targets 'middle-skill' employee training with acquisition

This was originally published on

(January 24, 2019)

Dive Brief:

Dive Insight:

The acquisition shows the online learning space is consolidating as employers look for vendors and other partners to combat a persistent skills gap.

Researchers have placed various estimates on the number of U.S. jobs due to be lost to downsizing, automation and various forms of digitalization, with the latest World Economic Forum report estimating that total number of displaced workers could reach 1.4 million over the next decade. "These apocalyptic scenarios are vastly overstated," said Britt, who told HR Dive it's more likely that occupations will change as new technologies are introduced, creating opportunity. "We have a lot less Draconian view of the way things are going to change."

Britt said middle-skill workers are a large cohort that has historically not had access to the same kinds of training opportunities afforded to knowledge workers, but that employers will need to change their tune on providing those opportunities to compete for middle-skill talent moving forward. "You don't have to offer upskilling to middle-skilled workers, but you do so at your own peril," he said. "Companies that do, however, recognize that there needs to be a change in the social contract."

Online learning is one of many interrelated forms of digital learning, including e-learning, that has seen increased growth thanks in part to the entrance of several competing providers. The e-learning space has been particularly active in the past two years, from heavyweights like LinkedIn and Adobe to those aiming for more niche audiences, like Coursera's efforts to cater to small- and medium-sized businesses. The proliferation of data has allowed the industry to better track learning metrics. Those advancements have enabled providers to realize the importance of "micro-learning," or learning that occurs in short, concentrated bursts of time. Britt believes bite-sized learning will continue to grow, and said Penn Foster is angling toward becoming a platform for microcredentials, among other credentials and certificates.

Employers are also looking to the public sector for potential partnerships that might help to accelerate upskilling. State and local programs have proliferated, while federal grants have also been set aside for the purpose. HR stakeholders hoping for a mention of the skills gap during Tuesday's State of the Union address likely weren't satisfied, however, as President Donald Trump didn't address the topic specifically. Trump has already gathered a coalition of U.S. businesses and organizations with the goal of creating 6 million training opportunities.

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