Many companies already have an in-house model for how to keep employees’ skills up to date in a rapidly changing environment: the IT department.
The responsibility for ensuring that workers not only know current technologies but are also prepared for the emerging ones falls to CIOs, who often rely on a network of resources, including their vendors, peers, universities, and professional associations, to deliver training when it’s needed. In addition, when companies roll out new systems, IT and business leaders – not HR – typically arrange to have employees trained to use them.
CompTIA, a professional association for the IT industry that offers certifications and other educational resources, recently surveyed 700 office workers whose jobs involved using technology. Forty-two percent said they had undertaken tech-related training the previous year. Sixty-eight percent agreed that training helps ensure that they are not left behind by technology.1
For example, CIO magazine cites a decision two years ago by Reed Sheard, the CIO at Westmont College in California. Sheard planned to deliver many services on mobile devices, so he needed a developer with mobile programming skills. Rather than recruit someone externally, he found someone in-house and sent him to learn a popular mobile development platform. Bill Brown, CIO for Avid Technology, found that his team had trouble completing projects successfully. He told his project managers to earn professional certification and required all IT staff to take at least one project management course. As a result, the team’s success rate in completing projects increased to 93%.2
MOOCs Can Bring Down the Costs
Free online classes delivered by leading universities could help companies lower the costs of classroom-based education and make it more convenient.
University-supported massive open online courses (MOOCs), through companies such as Coursera and Udacity, offer free, self-paced courses. Both companies offer certificate programs that, for a fee, enable employees to offer employers proof that they have completed their coursework.
The companies are also pursuing partnerships with employers to incorporate online courses into employee training programs.3 Udacity, for example, has launched the Open Education Alliance through which technology vendors and universities have partnered to develop and deliver courses in programming, computer science, and data analysis.
Training and development departments can also apply the MOOC model to their own training programs. In fact, given how rapidly business needs change and how much companies rely on nonemployees to execute critical business functions, MOOCs could become essential for training a company’s employees and its extended workforce of contractors. For example, InformationWeek reported that Aquent, a temporary staffing firm that specializes in placing creative and marketing professionals, recently launched a MOOC, Aquent Gymnasium, to teach skills such as Web design.4 Aquent ended up placing 200 of the 367 professionals who completed the first course it offered.
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- Generational Research on Technology and Its Impact in the Workplace (CompTIA, June 2013), http://www.unify.com/be/~/media/internet-2012/documents/report/CompTIA-Generational-Study.pdf.
- Martha Heller, “Finding the Talent Your Business Needs,” CIO,
July 27, 2012, http://www.cio.com/article/711441/Finding_the_Talent_Your_Business_Needs.
- “Coursera Plans to Develop Corporate Training Program,” Education News, accessed March 13, 2014, http://www.educationnews.org/online-schools/coursera-plans-to-develop-corporate-training-program/.
- Michael Fitzgerald, “Companies Create MOOCs to Fill Skills Gaps,” InformationWeek, May 28, 2013, http://www.informationweek.com/ software/companies-create-moocs-to-fill-skills-gaps/d/d-id/1110142.