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The Upskill Challenge: Training Versus Education

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By Glynn Cosker
Edge Staff

There is a decision that every company must make at some point: is offering employees a chance to further their education the best “upskilling” approach — or is specialized training the way to go? Some industries swear by education, while others promote training. Either way, it’s important to know the difference between education and training and the results that each approach provides.

There are plenty of well-educated but poorly trained employees in every company. However, there are plenty of well-trained but poorly educated employees, too. In today’s ever-evolving world, it’s more important than ever to be trained and educated — because they can easily complement each other. In short, each method involves knowing how to do something, figuring out complex problems, and responding to the uncertain in the absence of complete information.

Teach, Train, Educate

The old adage says “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” The second part of that quote is as important today as when it was first uttered because teaching is educating and training. Give your employees specific job-centric training, and they’ll attain a valuable skill-set for specific tasks connected to your mission; give your employees the option for formal education, and they’ll attain an equally valuable broad knowledge of a discipline connected to your mission.

A recent Huffington Post article put it this way: “You train people for performance. You educate people for understanding.” However, many companies and individuals currently sit at the intersection of corporate training and education. So, which method of upskilling is best? Many experts say that the best practice is finding the ideal balance of training and education — especially when it comes how each method benefits the organization and its employees. The choice also depends on the organizational needs and its future strategic planning — as well as available time and resources.

The Workplace Is Changing

A March 2020 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Study surveyed 500 HR leaders nationwide and found “74% of respondents report that their companies require the submission of a credential in their hiring practices. But only 26% claim that the credential is used in assessing the candidate’s viability. As demand for competencies grows in the 21st-century workplace, 78% of hiring managers agree that they will need to reassess the way they hire, and 45% report that changing hiring practices is a priority in their organizations.”

The Chamber’s study further states, “The demand for skilled workers is greater than ever, but availability is in short supply. Our study finds that 74% of hiring managers agree that there is a skills gap in the current labor market, with 48% saying that candidates lack the skills needed to fill open jobs.” Clearly, there is a massive demand for businesses to train and educate their current talent pools.

The Pandemic

Upskilling is a commonplace business term for an organization’s process for increasing its employees’ skills. On a larger scale, it also describes a huge change in the workplace due to technology and other factors — and the shift is ongoing. McKinsey & Company predicts that technological advances will make one-third of American workers switch their occupations by 2030. Therefore, a big reason for upskilling is to proactively prepare for the future by combating any threats to business that might materialize. Perhaps a global pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic has changed how CEOs look at threats to their organizations. Before 2020, the top five threats that worried business leaders the most were: over-regulation, policy uncertainty, availability of key skills, trade conflicts and cyber threats. A global pandemic didn’t even feature in the top 12 threats to business; there is no doubt that it will top future lists. A post-COVID world will usher in a new way of approaching upskilling, and pandemic contingency plans will appear in every CEO’s strategy because — as awful as it is — COVID is just a trial run for a more catastrophic future scourge.

Extraordinary Times; Extraordinary Education

We are currently living through an uncertain time in world history — especially in the business world. Obviously, companies cannot eliminate uncertainty, but they can plan for it. With the right balance of education and training, businesses can equip their workforce to face uncertainty head-on and with a higher level of confidence through increased problem-solving skills, communication skills, planning, and critical thinking.

Extraordinary times calls for an extraordinary education, and — in order to upskill — employers must still utilize career-relevant education and training — and American Public University System (APUS) offers both.

APUS is built around the professional needs of its students — many of whom work for the companies that are hungry for upskilling. APUS has seen success stories that prove that education and training are equally beneficial; there is no bad choice — they are interchangeable.

APUS is a pioneer and innovator in online education and has provided education solutions and support to top government and private-industry employers.

As an invested educational partner, APUS has a track record of improving a company’s talent pool by helping its employees acquire the skills they need in order to meet wider business-strategic objectives.

APUS can help an organization:

  • Upskill and improve its talent pipeline
  • Distribute resources to address deficits
  • Make succession planning (as illustrated by COVID-19) a mission-critical priority
  • Promote its employer-of-choice status by retaining its best talent
  • Prepare its workforce for a post-COVID world

The University offers more than 200 degrees and certificates including programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level — all great options for anybody looking to further his or her education over a two- to four-year period.

Additionally, however, APUS provides dozens of undergraduate and graduate certificates for those looking to be ‘trained-up’ within a shorter timeframe. The University understands today’s diverse workforce and the demands for training and education on companies and employees alike.

The 2020s will be a decade unlike any we’ve seen in generations. Just as the business world re-invented itself after the advent of the internet, email and video-conferencing, it will do so again. APUS stands ready and able to help.

Glynn Cosker is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. In addition to his background in journalism, corporate writing, web and content development, Glynn served as Vice Consul in the Consular Section of the British Embassy located in Washington, D.C. Glynn is located in New England.

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