SI Review: November 2012

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The Buzz

Schooling and Tooling

How the staffing industry can help educate the workforce of tomorrow

By Andrew Karpie

In a Sept. 17 article on this subject, “Our (Work) Education Crisis: Send In the MOOCs,” US New and World Report said, “... companies are moving away from the notion that employees will stay on the job for their work life. Instead, management is embracing the idea that it should offer employees better opportunities to manage their careers.”

Can the same be true of staffing firms? Leveraging retooling, up-skilling and educational opportunities to retain (in terms of relationship) and redeploy the increasing number of contingent and “job changing” workers could have a very positive impact on staffing firms’ candidate/worker “life-cycle profits” and a firm’s sustained future viability (provided the costs of doing so are within a certain range).

The following are some cases that illustrate the current technology-driven revolution that will deliver low or no-cost education:

MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) and its several key developers/purveyors (e.g., Coursera, edX and Udacity) now enable millions to take free courses from many of the world’s top educational institutions.

Some more focused providers have developed similar platform services for specialized professional training and skill development, such as Lynda.com, a producer of economical subscriptions to training for technologists working hard to keep up their skills in the fast-paced IT sector. The company is expanding rapidly based on it one-stop-shop, all-you-can eat, buffet-style affordable subscription models.

Like the well-known Khan Academy that has been successfully delivering free K-12 level instruction in core subjects, there are also other non-profits, like the International Center for Professional Development (ICPD) that offers continuing education programs for students and professionals using personalized face-toface experiential training and ongoing Web-based support.

A start-up called Skillshare offers an online platform for bringing together teachers and students for inexpensive, local, offline classes on almost any subject imaginable.

In the past, staffing firms shied away from providing lots of training opportunities,

because the costs were clearly prohibitive. But that was then, and this is now. Cost and availability variables have started moving inversely.

Staffing firms need not be the actual providers of the education and training, but they can configure themselves and their electronic infrastructures to help connect workers to these services. Since staffing firms are so frequently in contact with large segments of the volatile and “unmatched” workforce, they are very well positioned to have an impact on closing skills gaps by supporting new learning platforms.

Andrew Karpie is a research analyst at Staffing Industry Analysts. He can be reached at akarpie@staffingindustry.com.

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