Letters from the field
Volume 2 – Number 1

It’s all about access

Give the non-traditional learner access to skills training and you’ll have all the skilled workers you need.

As you read the news that there are now more jobs than people to fill them, don’t panic. What you may not know is there are 76 million Americans who wish they had the skills to work for you.

Here are some facts that are important to understand as you make your human capital plans.

  • According to Tyton Partners , 76 million people in America are working in jobs earning wages that are below the poverty level of $22,000.
    • 17.4 million lack a high school diploma.
    • 39.2 million have a high school diploma.
    • 19.6 million went to college and did not complete.
  • Education technology that is designed for this population is lacking.
  • The barrier that keeps them from your roster is access to skills training.
  • The complexity of their lives prevents them seeking traditional educational options.

Meet the non-traditional learner

Non-traditional learners are unlikely to have the time and resources to pursue academic programs that are time and attendance-based.

Non-traditional learners include:

  • The 76 million mentioned above
  • People who are working one or more jobs
  • Your incumbent workers
  • Displaced workers
  • College non-completers

What the non-traditional learner needs is non-traditional access to skills training.

Serving the least of these – a case study about the importance of access to skills training

For the past three years 180 Skills has delivered college-level skills training programs to students in Adult Education (AE) programs. AE students are people who did not complete high school and are attempting to get a high school diploma or equivalency.

In 2016, 180 Skills was asked by Steve Braun, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, to participate in an experiment to see if AE students could benefit from competency-based, self-paced, online, manufacturing skills training programs delivered concurrently with their Adult Education programs. Mr. Braun’s belief was that a high school diploma offered little in terms of marketplace value for in-demand occupations in Indiana. The addition of real skills training would mean that they would have immediate employment opportunities when they completed their AE programs.

The online manufacturing skills training programs the students enrolled in are the same programs we deliver to our community and technical college partners. Each program consists of 100 – 125 online skills courses and is the equivalent of 20 – 25 college credit hours. The programs also offer a credential opportunity to completers.

The Results

200 students were enrolled in January 2017 and completions were double the State’s average of 15% retention.  In 2018, 180 Skills began offering the same programs to the statewide system of AE providers.  Today we have AE students completing Career Programs in two months or less, and earning industry-recognized credentials, all while they are working on their AE requirements.

By the way, there are 3 million AE students in America. Think about this when you are trying to find a source for people who might want to work for you.

Creating access for the non-traditional learner

 Creating digital points of access to skills training opens the door to opportunity for the non-traditional learner. Non-traditional learners study at non-traditional times. Our non-traditional students study at 10PM, 2AM, and on holiday weekends.  Incumbent workers who want to upskill can learn during off-hours. A displaced worker can begin skills training the day after they lose their job. No one has to wait for the next class or semester. College non-completers can work on skills training the day after they return home.

It’s really that simple. Create access and they will come.

What this means for employers

 Manufacturers who provide access to skills training to the non-traditional student are finding themselves enjoying a healthy candidate pipeline. Many employers offer free pre-hire skills training. Others are offering skills training to community-based organizations including high schools, workforce agencies and faith-based organizations. Candidates who complete the pre-employment skills training are miles ahead of walk-in candidates. They have already demonstrated that they have the motivation to “complete” something, and it demonstrates they really want a job.

This should be the norm

Skills training should be available when and where it’s needed. Period. In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t the norm. There’s simply no reason to make access exclusive to a subset of the population. The content exists, it’s low-cost, and the results are proven.

Give us a shout if you want to learn more. We love sharing our experiences and thoughts on skills training.

Joe Kitterman, CEO
180 Skills, LLC