Are Employers Hurting The Innovation Happening In Education?

Career College Central summary:

  • Will competency trump a degree? The question was a central point of discussion at LearnLaunch's second annual ed-tech conference, and four panelists took to tackling the topic Friday night: Deb Bushway, vice president of Capella University; Kris Clerkin, executive director of the College for America at Southern New Hampshire University; Jonathan Finkelstein, founder and CEO of Credly; and Shaun Johnson, co-founder of the Startup Institute.
  • The breakout session, moderated by Jason Palmer, deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, zeroed in on competency-based learning — education designed to provide students with the skills necessary to succeed in today's workforce. The problem, however, is that, up to this point, what people "know" has been defined by the college degree listed on their résumé.
  • For several fields, that has started to change. If an employer wants to know whether an aspiring Web developer is exceptional at coding, they can take inventory of his or her GitHub account. For writers, a boss can demand to see published clips. As Palmer noted on Friday, that "evidence of learning is easier to review in other professions."
  • But what's the rest of the workforce to do? Programs like the locally-founded Startup Institute work because students are placed directly in front of employers after their eight-week immersion into the startup ecosystem. What's more, throughout the practitioner-led program, participants are taught by those same employers, who come in from a day out in the field to work with the students hands-on. By the end, students are pitching to a room full of those looking to hire, emerging with the skills necessary to make an immediate impact at a startup. The process has worked: Nine out of 10 Startup Institute graduates have a full-time job within three months of leaving the program.
  • If there's no one there to facilitate the conversation between employers and students sprung from a more nontraditional program, though, is that success as obtainable? The average student loan debt is now ringing in at $29,400. That said, college graduates reportedly earn 84 percent more over their lifetimes that those without a degree — a statistic that's kept students enrolling in traditional, four-year programs. The costly credential "proves" an individual has been validated and certified. The piece of paper symbolizes they've learned something, even if all they learned is how to masterfully memorize enough material to the extent they could fall asleep in the back of a classroom and still pass the final exam.

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