From education to employment

Breaking the barriers of traditional education: How tech credentials are enabling lifelong learning

Nicola Pearce on the FE News exclusive background

The education sector is experiencing a shift. Traditional education methods are being complemented with alternative credentials and qualifications, more adapted to the individual’s needs, as well as their future beyond education. Due to evolving demands amongst educators, students, and employers, there is an increasing need for a further skills-focused teaching approach.  

As educators recognise students’ individuality and needs around personal development, flexibility and accessibility should be considered. A recent survey revealed that more than 55% of students work part-time whilst studying, an all-time high number which is expected to keep growing. This emphasises the importance of finding solutions to help students balance their lives, by supporting their educational and personal development. Providing students with remote access to learning material which can be accessed at any time, ultimately helps them to create a balance in life, enabling students to balance their education, work, and personal life.  

Employers no longer base their employment decisions purely on an individual’s university degree, but rather on other relevant and important skills that are essential to the workplace. Credentials such as digital marketing certifications, data management, and cyber security training provide skills that are applicable in most modern jobs, and schools and educators bear a responsibility to provide students with the ability to learn and develop in these areas, placing the focus on preparing them for a future beyond education.  

Additionally, with its cost-effective and time-efficient approach, the alternative teaching method provides access to education to a wider range of people and students, regardless of income, living situation, and background. This can help break down the barrier of inequality and inclusivity within education.  

Recognising the inevitable evolution from traditional credentials to modern and alternative credentials can cause confusion and discussion amongst students, educators, and employers. Therefore, educators and employees must work closely together to discuss the importance and value of these credentials, and to what extent the shift should take place. This is why building awareness around the benefits and advantages that implementing new and alternative credentials into education can bring, is crucially important for implementation to run smoothly and be effective.  

How alternative credentials can provide new opportunities in the job market?

The job market is constantly evolving and becoming more demanding than ever before. Employers are looking for a wider range of skills and credentials, taking a step further from traditional university degrees and education. It is therefore important that students acquire a broader range of skills, provided, and evidenced through alternative credentials and supported by their educators. 

Employers are increasingly looking for employees with relevant skills related to project management and certifications to prove and ensure they can be valuable assets across all operational activities. These credentials also ensure a basic understanding of project planning and execution monitoring, skills that are valuable at a personal and professional level. 

In addition to a thorough understanding of cyber risks, and skills related to mitigating these, there is undoubtedly a desire for skills related to data and cloud management.  We are surrounded by data in all parts of our lives, and consequently there is a growing demand amongst employers for employees to have a good understanding of data management. By implementing data bootcamps and comprehensive data management training in schools and educational institutions, students are guaranteed a basic level of data management skills, essential in driving decisions across businesses and industries, ultimately providing them with an advantage in the job market. 

By providing courses and cloud computing certification, educators support the inevitable shift towards a cloud-based infrastructure which we can see progressing across all industries and organisation. Additionally, trough the increased implementation of cloud-technologies such as Google, OneDrive, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), schools are constantly preparing students for a life beyond education, where knowledge of how to navigate these tools are at high demand, and often even required.  

Alternative credentials vs. traditional university degrees  

Whilst alternative, modern credentials are tailored towards growing needs related to modern technologies and challenges, traditional credentials still offer great and essential value. Traditional and modern credentials both have strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between the two ultimately comes down to the individual’s desires and goals.  

Where some might seek out a career in web development or digital marketing, others might seek towards more traditional career paths. Making the choice between traditional and modern credentials therefore is at the discretion of the individual, based on their career- goals and learning preferences.  

Whilst schools and educational institutions provide a great variation of courses, modules, and opportunities for students to choose from, there is still a long way to go. There needs to be an improved level of collaboration between education providers, employers, policymakers, and stakeholder in order to adapt to the evolving trends, and finding solutions that accommodate these.  

The challenges of non-traditional education pathways, and how to ensure their effectiveness 

To ensure the effectiveness of non-traditional education pathways it is essential that we address the key concerns surrounding them and consider their multifaceted approach to education. 

Whilst the introduction of new methods, technologies, and credentials provide a vast range of new opportunities and possibilities, it consequently poses new challenges and risks. The reliance on alternative credentials has been criticised, due to risks related to quality assurance, accountability, and transparency. By ensuring proper transparency regarding teaching methods, their consequences, and what they offer, it can help create a better understanding of these credentials’ purpose and value. 

It is important that we look at traditional and alternative credentials as equally valuable. The value of a university degree is no longer exclusively desirable as employers now may choose to look for alternative credentials related to the likes of digital marketing, UX design, or data management, and the decision and choice between the two is ultimately down to the individual. As we enter a job market, encouraged by individualism and innovation, it is key that the individual base their decision on their desired learning outcomes and career goals. By doing this we can break the barriers of traditional education. 

By Nicola Pearce, Head of Education, BenQ

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