In the post-pandemic years, workplaces have changed. Remote working, enabled by digitalisation, has become more commonplace, and enterprises have had to reappraise the skills they have, those they don’t–but need, and how they can best equip employees to perform and thrive. Through online learning platforms, technology can support learning and development (L&D) teams in providing engaging, flexible and cohesive training programmes and bite-sized learning modules.
Investment in training
According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, six in 10 workers will require training before 2027. The report reveals that analytical and creative thinking, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data are priority areas for this, but unfortunately, only half of workers have access to adequate training. This is a missed opportunity because, as revealed in the same report, two thirds of companies that offer skills training said they expect to see a return on investment within a year of the investment.
Training is very much an investment in the future of the enterprise. It helps companies meet their goals, innovate and prepare for the future.
Many companies will be considering their skills needs for this new year and how their training programmes will help employees attain the right capabilities. Face-to-face programmes will meet some of the demand but may only cater for some required training.
Not least because many employees now work on a flexible, hybrid basis. They spend some time in the office but also work from home and elsewhere. To accommodate this, training programmes can take a similar hybrid approach through blended and online courses that supplement office-based training. Online and asynchronous learning approaches are flexible because employees can engage with them at times that suit them from wherever they are.
Lifelong learning and apprenticeships
Learning cannot stop when people leave full-time education and enter the workforce. Lifelong learning helps companies plug skill gaps and adapt to the changing shape of work and technology by upskilling workers in new and in-demand skills, such as digital capabilities, leadership and communication.
In 2023, the UK government introduced the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) to enable adults to withdraw loans up to £37,000 from 2025 that can be used flexibly over a working life to upskill and retrain. This reflects a broader global trend as, according to McKinsey, up to 375 million workers around the world may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills by 2030 as digitisation, automation and AI disrupt work.
For many work entrants, apprenticeships provide the ideal vehicle for training and development and to seed lifelong learning at work. In the UK, apprenticeships are encouraged through the Apprenticeship Levy, which is designed to help employers fill skill gaps. In 2023, four trade bodies called for a broader “skills levy” with “short, modular courses and online learning” as flexible ways to build a range of skills. This, it was argued, would support existing workers, as well as work entrants, in attaining the skills enterprises need.
Whatever form they take, apprenticeships need high-quality learning content that’s delivered flexibly to accommodate the needs and working patterns of enterprises and trainees. Technology-enabled learning, provided through a learning platform, is particularly helpful here. It can support apprentices as they engage with learning content in the workplace, at their educational institution and elsewhere. Online platforms are feature-rich and incorporate tools for peer learning, social interaction, grading, and assessment and multimedia content, which help engage apprentices as they learn.
Short courses and bite-sized learning
Short courses and bite-sized learning may be a feature of apprenticeship programmes. They can also support lifelong learning and corporate training in all its forms. Shorter courses are ideal when workers need to retrain, top up skills or gain new ones in disciplines such as AI, as they condense learning into bite-sized chunks.
They can also support L&D teams that need to customise their learning offerings or offer employees the capability to pick training on a modular basis, effectively stacking credentials as they gain them. Micro-credentials work well with short courses. They are mini qualifications that demonstrate skills, knowledge and experience in particular subject areas or capabilities. They can be useful for targeting particular skill gaps and providing learners with proof of skill, verified by an issuing institution, that they can share across a variety of platforms, including digital portfolios and social media.
Digital skills education
According to Forbes Advisor’s IT Skills Gap Report 2023, 93% of UK businesses say there is an IT skills gap, and AI is the most in-demand skill.
Technology does not stand still. Relentless technological advancements make it a challenge to keep employees’ skills up to date. Before the UK’s Autumn Statement in November, big tech companies, including Microsoft, Salesforce, Amazon and BT, wrote an open letter to the government. In it, they asked the Treasury to focus on teaching digital skills to bridge the gap.
Digital skills are necessary across sectors as technology becomes increasingly integrated into enterprises’ operations. Without digital skills, innovation stalls. Added to this, the shift to hybrid working has catapulted the use of digital tools into the mainstream and heightened the need for employees to understand and be able to use technology.
Enterprises need skills strategies that cater for present needs, including digital and AI capabilities, and create a culture in which employees and the wider business become resilient and able to adapt to the needs of the future of work. That requires continuous upskilling, access to flexible learning and the mindset to make it happen.
Looking for information on enterprise learning?
As enterprises embark on their 2024 plans, their investments in training and development will support their achievement of business goals. Technology-enabled learning can play a significant supporting role, enabling bite-sized learning and supporting lifelong learning, apprenticeships and the development of digital skills. To find out how D2L supports enterprise learning, take a look at our learning management system for corporate training.
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