Over the past decade, a robust market for accelerated, alternative training and education programs — particularly in the tech and digital spaces — has emerged. These programs are designed to quickly, efficiently and affordably transition people into new careers or simply enhance their existing skills, while also connecting companies with the people who have the exact set of skills they need. Public school districts offer multiple types of alternative education; other programs may be state-financed non-profits, while others – commonly in the tech sector – are for-profit bootcamp-type programs.
Accelerated programs have been so successful that in 2014, the government passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which financially bolsters the growth of these alternative programs.
Why these programs?
Traditional academic institutions have been less and less successful in providing companies with the talent they seek. The cost of higher education has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and tuition is much higher for private colleges, which many simply cannot afford.
When companies only recruit from traditional academic institutions, they’re overlooking a large population of potential candidates, which is further compounded when they also have direct and exclusive recruiting relationships with specific colleges and universities. Not all schools have this access, so there is a disconnect between potential employers and recent graduates. This may account for why 43% of new college graduates are underemployed in jobs that have little or no relevance to their degree. And they tend to remain underemployed for years after.
This statistic could also be explained by the emphasis traditional institutions place on overarching developmental goals for young people, rather than training them to fill specific roles in the workplace. Even college graduates are saying they do not feel properly prepared for the workplace and some employers agree.
A good place to recruit
So now that we know the problem, here are four reasons why accelerated, alternative options are not only a great choice for job seekers but also for the companies that hire them:
1. Focused, immersive training on the problems of tomorrow
Alternative education programs specialize in preparing individuals for targeted roles, such as front and backend web development or UX/UI designers, and so they make it their business to keep up with changes and advancements in their industry. Courses are regularly updated to reflect the newest tools, techniques, and trends, meaning graduates can hit the ground running almost immediately when hired. In fact, many traditional academic institutions have partnered with coding boot camps to remain competitive and provide their students the same market relevancy.
2. Customized training for new and long-term staff to address the skills gap
Fast-evolving technology has vastly changed the marketplace and is expected to continue to do so. As a result, companies have started to notice a skills gap. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that about 35% of US jobs might become automated or require very different skill sets in the next 20 years. A simple, cost-effective way companies can acclimate is to “upskill” their employees by having them learn the latest industry trends, much like how doctors and lawyers have to complete continuing education credits throughout their career.
3. Direct link to skilled candidates
Traditional two or four year colleges have a mission of educating students, but they don’t always act as a recruitment service for companies. On the flip side, many accelerated, alternative education programs’ primary goal is employment. As a result, they develop and maintain a strong network of corporations or even partner with them to offer uninhibited access to the highly trained candidates they need. The hiring process is remarkably streamlined.
4. A diverse pool of candidates
Alternative education programs level the playing field. Whether companies use them to train existing staff or recruit graduates who financed their own training, these programs reach a wider array of talent — not just the ones who can afford the cost and time-intensiveness of higher education. Some accelerated, alternative education programs also focus on racial and ethnic diversity, so companies looking to recruit can diversify their workplace with skilled talent. Tech education company General Assembly is a great example. It has a Social Impact program that leverages its accelerated training models to reach underserved adults and low-income communities.
Accelerated, alternative education programs offer flexibility and convenience. Businesses can recruit from these programs or even use them to upskill employees. And in a world where business operations and needs will look vastly different in a decade, training programs that allow companies to quickly adapt are extremely valuable. Perhaps in a few years, even traditional academic institutions may become more “alternative” to suit the changing marketplace, but for the time being, alternative training programs are servicing our ever-changing needs.
A version of this article was originally published on wforce.org.