Continuing Education Courses Help Bridge Skills Gaps
Industry Insight How going back to school sets you up for success in the modern workplace.
espite a high number of post-secondary-educated applicants, today’s employers struggle to fill vacancies. “You need to have an educational foundation plus a skill set,” explains education expert Dr. Marie
Bountrogianni, Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University. In order to close the skills gap, the unemployed and underemployed can acquire in-demand job skills through continuing education. “[Employers] spend a lot less time and money training than they did in the past,” says Bountrogianni. “They need employees that are ready to hit the ground running.”
Skills that are in demand
Whether for career advancement or a career change, continuing education learners should be strategic in the job skills they acquire. Bountrogianni highlights data analytics as an in-demand skill for graduates of math and technology. “We have all these big databases, and now there’s a need for someone to use them,” she says. As for specialists in communications, expertise in the promotional capabilities of Facebook and Twitter is key. “Social media skills and analytics, knowing how effective the use of social media is — that’s very important,” explains Bountrogianni. Expertise in filmmaking is also valuable for marketing professionals. “Being able to produce videos is a highly sought after skill.”
Flexible learning with online education
When students ask me for career advice, I still advise them to study what they love. But, keep your eye on the labour market and augment your skills through either continuing education or another means.”
For a successful career change, take initiative in expanding your job skills. “Employers want people who are willing to learn on their own time,” Bountrogianni explains. Online learning offers students the flexibility to pick up job skills despite busy schedules. “Not all students can come downtown two nights a week,” says Bountrogianni, who adds that today’s online learning programs are just as rigorous as in-person college or university equivalents. “The preconception about online learning is that it’s a bunch of notes on a computer,” she says. “Digital learning has come a long way. There are videos, and the courses are interactive.” Bountrogianni gives the example of a nursing school module that harnesses modern technologies like gaming. “You can actually do an eye exam [through] gaming. It’s very realistic and very interactive.”
Targeted education through experiential learning
Experiential learning is one of the latest innovative improvements transforming continuing education. The Chang School recently launched Experiential Learning Exchange (ELX), a flexible model where students have the opportunity to connect with industry experts in workshop-style master classes or one-on-one coaching sessions. “Students choose their own level of learning and depth of instruction,” explains Bountrogianni. “They receive one-on-one coaching, enabling students to take advantage of the right expertise to help them achieve their learning goals.” For example, a user experience expert can help select the best research methods for a target audience in just a few hours, or a communications professional can coach someone through crafting a persuasive press release.
Through focused training, employees can stay abreast of employers’ needs. “When students ask me for career advice, I still advise them to study what they love. But, keep your eye on the labour market and augment your skills through either continuing education or another means.”