Seldom does a time go by when there isn’t a warning or other of a skills shortage afflicting the economy. At the start of this year for instance, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills found that 146,200 job vacancies (22%) last year were unfilled because of inadequate skills, compared with 91,400 (16%) two years earlier.
It’s probably fair to say that this is only the tip of the iceberg. With the pace of changing only quickening, it seems inevitable that many people will fail to keep up, and a skills shortage will result. This was emphasised by poor investment in training highlighted in the same UKCES report. They revealed that the amount spent on training decreased from £1,680 per employee in 2011 to £1,590 in 2013.
Peter Capelli, the author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs and the director of the Wharton Center for Human Resources is pretty scathing on this lack of investment “A huge part of the so-called skills gap actually springs from the weak employer efforts to promote international training for their current employees or future hires,” he says.
Such an environment merely emphasises the crucial role MOOCs can play in helping to plug that gap. It’s an environment where people need skills, and they need them fast, and of course, they need them cheaply. This is an area where MOOCs can really add considerable value, providing employees with on-demand training precisely where and when that training is needed.
This is reflected in a subtle shift in the MOOC market towards the provision of more corporate learning opportunities. Udacity were one of the first movers in this direction with their recent partnership with Google, Autodesk and so on. They’re not alone however. EdX has teamed up with the steel company Tenaris to help power it’s internal training facility for 27,000 employees, whilst Udemy are already serving this market.
This has generally been the preserve of the adventurous, but an increasing number of companies want a bit of the cool aid. Once the early adopters have taken the first step, it’s much less scary to follow suit, especially when that early adopter is a rival firm. The model of low-cost, high-quality education offered by MOOCs could transform corporate training and allow lifelong learning to become a reality for more people.
If you want to engage in a fun experiment, take a few employees from your own company and get them to look through the main MOOC sites (below) and see what takes their fancy. You might be surprised.