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How Continuing Education Can Help Meet Workforce Development Needs  

  • 5 Min Read

Discover how continuing education and workforce development can help prepare current and future employees with the skills needed to succeed.


Teamwork can, in fact, make the dream work. At least when it comes to workforce development. 

“Workforce development” can have a lot of different meanings. In this post, we’re defining it as filling the training needs of businesses through targeted educational programming.  

Teaming up continuing education and workforce development can fill business needs by aligning course curriculums to suit open jobs. 

Institutions taking advantage of a robust learning management system (LMS) can also lead to the development of courses that are accessible to target student demographics—often nontraditional learners looking for flexibility in their course delivery.  

Higher ed institutions working together with businesses to understand employment needs could create a perfect storm of program demand and graduate success. 

The Relationship Between Continuing Education and Workforce Development 

Workforce development is a process that focuses on the needs of both employers and employees. These programs are created with the goal of equipping learners with the skills they need to enter in-demand jobs.  

Continuing education is the vehicle needed to help students learn those skills. People looking for work can turn to these continuing ed programs to reskill or upskill for jobs in high-demand sectors. 

For example, the skilled trades sector in Canada has seen a decline in the number of qualified workers to fill open positions. By examining this void, institutions can work with organizations in the skilled trades industries to build out the courses needed to qualify talent, filling open positions and starting careers for new employees. 

In this post, we’ll share how HACC, central Pennsylvania’s community college, used its continuing education efforts to meet workforce development needs in their community. 

Zeroing in on the Right Workforce Development Programs 

Instead of throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks, understanding what will make it sticky in the first place will save institutions time. 

The same goes for institutions looking to support local business needs with continuing education. The first step is reaching out to members of the community and understanding what training is in demand.  

For HACC this meant collaborating extensively with local businesses. Once the business needs are established, instructional designers can work with course experts to create continuing education programs to directly align with business goals. 

Aligning course curriculums with career needs gives working learners an excellent return on their investment, enables local businesses to fill open positions, and allows higher ed institutions to grow both enrollments and graduation rates. 

Flexible workforce learning

Find out how HACC doubled demand for its workforce development programs, enabling the institution to meet and exceed its annual targets for enrollment while also launching a range of new stackable credentials for workforce development.

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Making Workforce Development Programs Accessible 

Institutions need to consider the target student demographic when designing usable workforce development programs.  

Many students enrolling in continuing education programs are classified as nontraditional—that is, over the age of 25, working full time, or a family member with commitments outside of the classroom. Their education needs to fit into their lifestyle when and where they have ability. 

For many institutions and businesses, this means incorporating online and asynchronous learning options as part of their continuing education repertoire. For HACC, this also meant digging deeper into students’ ability to access the technology they needed to empower their education. Many of the students in the workforce development program don’t have a computer or a reliable internet connection. 

“For online learning to work, we need to make sure our mobile app is as robust as possible. For many of our students, that’s the only way they have to complete their classes,” said Doreen Fisher-Bammer, associate provost of virtual learning at HACC. 

The college also had to consider accessibility in terms of the cost of the programs and being able to provide training that is typically done in person. 

HACC solved this using its LMS, D2L Brightspace. They worked closely with the D2L team to create online courses in Brightspace that included interactive self-paced modules available through a mobile device. 

Exploring Course Structure and Assessment 

Continuing education programs offer opportunities for higher ed institutions to incorporate different course structures, making learning more flexible. 

Instead of striving for a four-year degree based on credits, colleges and universities can offer bite-size courses to learners who are looking to save time and money. 

Brightspace enables us to provide engaging competency-based training and generate certificates for students to document the credentials earned for their newly acquired skills 

Doreen Fisher-Bammer, associate provost of virtual learning at HACC

HACC is further developing its strategy to include continuing ed credentials that can be stacked to show continued growth of knowledge and micro-credentials to show new skills.  

To ensure the ideal standards of learning quality were being met through online instruction, the institution also incorporated competency-based education.  

“Brightspace enables us to provide engaging competency-based training and generate certificates for students to document the credentials earned for their newly acquired skills,” said Fisher-Bammer. 

Without the structured confines of degree requirements, continuing education can mold itself to suit the needs of its learners and better align curriculums to careers. 

Introducing Lifelong Learning

Once some people get a taste for academia, they want more. In some cases, institutions that create partnerships with local businesses to offer workforce development programs can find other ways to support them through education. 

“Another way we provide training is to contract with our business partners to help them upskill their existing workforce,” said Vic Rodgers, HACC associate provost for workforce development and continuing education. “We take a great deal of pride in serving our business and industry communities with flexibility and our ability to be nimble and responsive, and we often customize our training to meet their needs.” 

Business needs can be met, employee satisfaction can be reached and enrollment goals of institutions can be hit through continuing education offerings. 

Investing in Continuing Education

Continuing education can look different from institution to institution. Figuring out what will resonate best with students—whether that includes workforce development or not—will be key in defining its success. 

Using the right LMS can also help streamline continuing education efforts.  

Find out how Brightspace can provide all the tools your institution will need to deliver a world-class continuing education experience. 

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Table of Contents
  1. The Relationship Between Continuing Education and Workforce Development 
  2. Zeroing in on the Right Workforce Development Programs 
  3. Making Workforce Development Programs Accessible 
  4. Exploring Course Structure and Assessment 
  5. Introducing Lifelong Learning
  6. Investing in Continuing Education