How a Skills-Based Learning Model Could Revolutionize Higher Education
July 23, 2021
While it feels in many ways like the world has started to spin again, some of the changes and trends that the global pandemic helped accelerate may be here to stay for good.
One such trend that’s particularly interesting for us at LinkedIn is the rise in demand for skills-based learning — where professionals can “upskill” or even “re-skill” online to become a more attractive candidate — and how educators across the board are adjusting to the shift.
At LinkedIn, our mission is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. We see this shift towards skills-based learning as a crucial part of fulfilling that mission.
In recent interviews, LinkedIn Co-Founder and VP of Product Management Allen Blue and LinkedIn Chief Economist Karin Kimbrough discussed the factors influencing this change, what it could mean for educators, employees, and employers as well, and why skills-based learning matters so much for the future of the workforce.
Syncing Educators and Professional Goals
If the focus is on acquiring the right skills for people to pursue a career or even change in mid-stream, how can they go about acquiring these skills? Allen sees an opportunity for learning institutions and business to work together. “We imagine a world where we can identify a skills gap and put the employer and educator directly in touch with each other,” he says.
For educators, this type of collaboration could mean re-imagining a traditional degree path. “Educators should begin to represent the types of skills that folks are walking away from their programs with,” Allen advises. “It will be a competitive advantage for schools to talk about the kind of skills they’ve prepared their students with, on a more granular level than they have in the past.” For example, instead of, “This course will grant you an MBA in Hospitality,” it might be, “This course will grant you an MBA in Hospitality, which certifies that you are trained in these five specific skill areas.”
Education and employment can come together on the other side of the equation, too. A business could use a training class and assessment to qualify candidates and better ensure the skill sets are a good fit. For example, Allen points out, “I could post a job and say, ‘I want to hire new customer service reps, but I’m not going to hire solely on previous experience and skills.’ I would ask them to complete learning paths on LinkedIn and take an assessment, and if you pass the assessment, you get an interview.”
It’s easy to see how the scenario above offers advantages for employees and employers alike. Employees can gain new access to opportunities and consideration for positions that they might lack the traditional pedigree to land an interview for. And employers can be sure they’re hiring folks who can do the job.
To make this type of hiring possible, however, “We need solutions [for training and assessment] that are flexible. We need to include the lifelong learning approach, too,” Karin says. What’s more, “Proof of having these skills needs to be portable and transparent,” available for employees to take with them as they change roles.
Demystifying Career Paths
There’s no guidebook for how to develop a career that suits your skills and interests. That was true back when people spent their entire working lives in a single career track, and doubly true now that people frequently switch positions, industries, and even entire types of work.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is that when you’re trying to make the next play in your career, it’s not clear what the right combination of school and experience will get you. The process of navigating the labor market is extremely opaque,” notes Karin. “It’s hard for schools to know what is the right degree or skill set to offer, hard for employers to find the candidates, and hard for employees to find the right job.”
A skills-based approach makes finding your next career play more transparent. It’s the philosophy behind LinkedIn’s new Career Explorer, currently in beta release, which draws on LinkedIn’s database of skills and related career titles to help people find new opportunities. “You can explore based on your current role, and see what additional skills you need in order to make a transition,” Karin explains.
With that information, you can then identify what skills you might be able to learn or upgrade to shift to a different role. For example, Karin suggests, “Every role right now seems to be looking for digital fluency of some sort. The mid-range of fluency that employers are looking for is both trainable and highly in-demand.”
With the ability to see how your skills match up to potential career choices, you may discover some surprising opportunities are within reach. Allen says that he was struck by how wildly different roles could have closely-related sets of required skills. For example, roles on the cutting edge of technology have similar skill sets to roles in the hard sciences. “If you’re in a hard science field like geology or biology, you’re this far away from a machine learning job,” Allen says.
Developing a Skills-Based Approach to Education
As LinkedIn helps to promote the idea of training in-demand skills, an ongoing challenge is defining and categorizing clusters of skills in a meaningful way. According to Allen, LinkedIn is bringing its immense dataset of skills and correlated job titles to bear on the problem. “We have an overall tree of skills that contains 40,000 discrete and distinguishable skills,” he says.
The future of work is quickly coming into focus. It is more flexible and specialized than ever before. Educators and schools can align with this outlook by positioning their programs to be more skill-based, helping candidates understand that they are very much in control of their career paths.
At a moment in time where major shake-ups in the workforce are imminently expected — new data shows that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year, with 46% planning to make a major pivot or career transition — now is the time for schools and higher ed marketers to step up and show how a skills-based approach best prepares modern professionals to advance and excel in a new world of work.
To learn more about how education is evolving to meet the needs of future employees and educators alike, check out our blog post on how the evolution of online learning is driving new market opportunities. And subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog.