Hardly a day goes by where we don’t hear of a line of work that’s on the verge of being automated. As Peter Coy, economics editor at Bloomberg Businessweek recently wrote, “automation is on the rise in fields from radiology to volleyball coaching.” That’s the bad news for American workers.
The good news is that the country’s employers are seeking to fill more than six million job openings, a record number. The challenge many workers face today is not a lack of job opportunity but, rather, the skills to advance their career or make a career move out of a field where jobs are disappearing.
Continuous Learning Has Become Essential
For instance, while there’s a growing and seemingly insatiable need for workers with experience in data science, how do you get the requisite experience to get one of these positions if you already have a full-time job? As Next Avenue’s Richard Eisenberg noted, continuous learning has become essential. It’s our ability to continually learn new skills throughout our careers that keeps us in demand among employers.
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That’s why universities across the country — from Georgia Tech in the southeast to the University of Washington in the northwest, where I serve as vice provost of Continuum College — have begun to rev things up. What we’re beginning to see is a re-tooling of university “continuing education” programs for people in the middle of their careers.
In the past, continuing education programs focused primarily on “enrichment,” like cooking and art classes. Now, there’s a shift toward certificates designed to fill very specific job openings such as those in data science, project management, computational finance and accounting.
A High-Value, Non-Credit College Certificate
In many cases, certificate programs provide high-value, non-credit learning experiences to help people find their dream jobs. For others, a certificate will help to improve job security. For example, last year we had a Ph.D. oceanographer in one of our programs who chose to pursue a certificate that let him add quantitative skills to his job as an oceanography researcher.
For people who are far along in their careers, a certificate can round out a resumé so they can compete successfully against younger workers. The key is to make sure you’re pursuing the right certificate program that will help you get that leg up.