Online education has taken off at every level over the last few years, from primary schools to the workplace, and it’s creating exciting opportunities. For some workers, though, online education represents something more critical: a chance at a new beginning, whether in a new industry or within a changing one. Digital learning opportunities could future proof today’s workforce, allowing individuals who might otherwise be displaced by changing work circumstances – good news for those who are at the margins of the economy.
The Education Advantage
When it comes to digital education, one reason that it’s become both popular and accessible is that companies are offering a variety of training opportunities as a perk of employment. These include traditional coursework, such as those offered by Coursera and LinkedIn Learning, to opportunities to cross-train in different roles. Some companies are even helping young staff develop leadership skills by teaching technology skills through reverse mentoring programs. Though less tech-driven in nature, reverse mentoring is a great way to get older team members feeling comfortable with a tech-forward workplace before immersing them in more complex tech training.
Amazon Embraces Education
One of the most notable moves towards widespread retraining came from Amazon this July. Over the next six years, the company plans to retrain 100,000 employees, primarily those in warehouse roles, so they’ll be equipped for more highly skilled positions. Through their own Machine Learning University, workers will be able to gain cloud certification, learn software development skills, and study other key tech-focused topics that will allow them to move into other roles at Amazon.
Healthcare Tackles New Technology
Healthcare has always been driven by technology, but like other industries there’s been a major spike in new tools over the last few years. Doctors are actively using video for healthcare consultations and to diagnose strokes more quickly to enhance treatment, and new practitioners educated with technology are especially competent with these tools.
Digital education tools are also helping to bridge gaps in care, providing access to training in key specialties. Speech language pathologists, for example, are using video as part of their clinical training, as are physical and occupational therapists. By extending the classroom to a digital environment, medical professionals can practice and review their skills independently and repeatedly, improving overall proficiency.
Reskilling In Silicon Valley
Though digital education tools tend to focus on those jobs that will be made obsolete by technology, reskilling programs are also helping those in the most quickly evolving professions to keep up with the changing landscape. Many software programmers encounter this precise issue when the dominant programming language changes. They may lack the more advanced skills needed for mobile programming or to develop new AI – the same AI that now does many of the basic programming tasks that people did in the past.
In response to changing demands, some tech companies are working to develop in-house reskilling programs similar to that Amazon plans to provide. This includes Red Hat’s new program to train Linux professionals in automation, which was designed based on specific hiring demands, as well as a retraining program run by AT&T. There’s no shortage of demand for tech workers, but they need access to the skills that will allow them to succeed in these jobs.
Digital education will likely become part of every employees’ growth and progress in coming years, but for now workplaces are still trying to understand how these programs can best meet their needs. It’s not a straight line, but a series of steps that will strengthen our employment landscape over the coming decades.