Corporate Training Traditions are History
By: Jan Larson, Chair, DETC Accrediting Commission , June 2008
Two issues of critical importance to me as the new DETC Accrediting Commission Chair are: (1) facilitating more credit transfer for our students, and (2) a greatly expanded role for distance education in general, and DETC institutions in particular, in meeting corporate training needs.
First, credit transfer. Our own Michael J. Hillyard, the new President of the University of St. Augustine, described the challenges of credit transfer and recommended several meaningful solutions to this dilemma in DETC's March 2008 Washington Memo. There's not much I can add to this excellent commentary, and I urge all DETC colleagues to read this thoughtful essay.
The second issue, meeting corporate America’s needs for skilled people, is broader in scope. And I don't think it's an overstatement to say that this issue is absolutely vital to the future of our nation’s economy. We face a critical challenge training an expanded work force to meet the needs of an increasingly complex economy. This will require maximizing the contribution of those in the employed ranks who are eligible to retire but need a different skill set.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (the "Bureau") estimates 50 million job openings will occur during the ten years ending in 2016. Job openings result from employment growth and replacement needs. The Bureau projects almost 70% of these 50 million job openings will arise from replacement needs.
Although these macro statistics provide no clear conclusions, there is enough information to create consternation. How will these 50 million “replacement” people be trained?
A recent article in the AARP Bulletin tells the story of an 82 year old surgical nurse who wanted to retire at the tender age of 80. As described in the article, the hospital where this nurse worked "...wouldn't let me go" because of her skill-set in a highly specialized area. The nurse agreed to stay, provided that her hours would be halved.
This struck me as a creative solution to an impending crisis that is sure to effect every institution in America. How will we retain and train employees?
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates more than 80 million people were born between 1946 and 1964. These Baby Boomers began retiring two years ago, and will continue to leave the work force in increasing numbers.
The aging of this population bubble helps explain why the Bureau estimates three out of every ten jobs created over the next ten years will be in the Education and Health Services sectors.
But for many of these retiring folks, there's a hitch in everyone's plans for them. Whether it is the recent loss of equity in their homes, high medical costs, inadequate retirement planning, or perhaps a simple desire to remain stimulated, many of these projected retirees will need to remain gainfully employed.
And that's good news for Corporate America. This demographic group possesses more education and earning power than any previous generation. With these factors comes higher spending power and more disposable income. This, in turn, creates greater demand in the market and a greater need for skilled workers to serve this increased purchasing power.
Whether driven by increased spending power or simply the math of older age reducing overall manpower, Corporate America's training needs will increase exponentially as it tries to stay ahead of the economic impact of an aging population.
This bodes well for college graduates. But even the college graduate numbers will be insufficient to meet all of the employers’ labor needs. Corporate America will need to aggressively train its existing work force and find more cost-effective and timely ways to retrain recent retirees reentering the work force.
And what better way to effectively, efficiently and economically train the largest number of existing and future employees than with accredited distance education?
The benefits of distance education are well documented. To name a few of the widely-appreciated benefits, it is less disruptive to an employee's schedule, can be delivered synchronously or asynchronously, offers numerous instructional alternatives, and is less costly than its residential counterpart.
At the risk of sounding like the Chair of a distance education accrediting commission, the point of all this is not simply that distance education is a meaningful alternative to traditional educational delivery. It is.
Rather, the point is that if Corporate America has not already made distance education an integral part of its employee training, they are way behind the curve in preparing themselves for job numbers and skills that will be required over the next 25 years.
Our youngest son studied and passed two professional certifications. He's one course away from completing his Masters degree. All of his education was accomplished through distance education. All of his degree study costs were reimbursed by his employer. All of his newly acquired skills are now adding value to his clients. And all of this learning is adding earning power to his future.
Distance education is being used by millions of students throughout the world. But it needs to become an even bigger part of the overall corporate educational experience to achieve the numbers of trained employees that will be required to meet U.S. and global economic needs.
And now, here is my most important message that I am seeking to convey.
If you're a student, or looking to become a student soon, you can count on receiving the highest quality education and highest quality service from a DETC-accredited university or school.
If you're a DETC institution, you can be proud of your accrediting association as being an organization that consistently puts the student first, always does the right thing, even if it's not the most expedient, is never completely satisfied with resting on its laurels, continuously upgrading its standards, that has a rigorous accreditation process which accepts only a fraction of new applicants on the first attempt, and that partners with you in producing highly skilled graduates who add value to Corporate America.
If you're an employer, you can rely on DETC accredited institutions to provide high caliber, highly skilled employees in an effective environment at a fraction of the cost of more traditional institutions, often at two-thirds less than the tuition costs of traditional universities.
I've been a DETC Commissioner for eight years, and can personally attest to the intensity of the process, the dedication of the Staff and Commissioners, and the commitment to excellence that permeates the entire organization.
The bottom line of the DETC experience means quality students produced by quality schools for the benefit of the students, their families and Corporate America.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2008 edition of the DETC NEWS. The NEWS invited Mr. Larson, the Accrediting Commission Chair, to offer his reflections on the value of accrediting distance learning to corporate America. Mr. Larson recently retired as the Managing Partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers Miami, Florida office and has extensive experience in working with large businesses and corporations.