How to Grow Professional Skills Development in Higher Education

Needs, curriculum, and technology for long-term success.

GUEST COLUMN | by Danny King

When learners enroll in higher and continuing education programs, their primary focus is likely traditional coursework that helps them define and work towards their intended careers. It is vital, however, that higher education institutions also shape these classes so students gain crucial soft skills to further drive career success. Ensuring that in-demand skills training is readily available and accessible to all learners will help higher education providers meet the demands of their student body and, in turn, set them up for long-term success to drive revenue growth across their organization. To get to a point where students are being taught these skills with regularity, executives in higher education should follow three steps: identify skills in need, revamp their curriculum as needed, and implement technology programs that help provide maximum value to learners.

‘…identify skills in need, revamp their curriculum as needed, and implement technology…’

Identify Skills of Need

First and foremost, higher education leaders need to understand the skills that are most important, in demand, and relevant to a given degree track. This is likely to vary across different degrees; software engineers, for example, might be seeking coursework that helps them grow their data literacy, while human resources professionals may seek work that helps develop their emotional intelligence.

Understanding what skills align to what programs will immediately bear fruit for both learners and education providers alike. Learners gain skills which quickly improve their professional development, providing pathways to further career progression at a faster clip. Higher education institutions will thus inherently provide more value to their learners, leading to two major outcomes: an increase in new student enrollment and the potential for further enrollment from existing students who found tangible value in specific continuing education programs.

Revamp your Curriculum

Once leaders in higher education have defined the necessary skills needed to properly prepare their students for success, revamping their curriculum to ensure these skills are being nurtured is the next crucial step. Let’s take software engineering as an example again; if data literacy is a top skill identified by professionals as being needed in the field, teachers and administrators leading software development certifications and degree work should ensure that data literacy becomes a part of the required coursework. This could mean shorter, more focused traditional courses dedicated to data literacy. This could also mean more interaction with or use of technology in day-to-day education, helping students become more literate on the fly and, as a result, more prepared to do their jobs effectively and successfully following the completion of their degree. In short, it’s important administrators rethink and reframe the way they think about providing development for in-demand skills when planning their curriculum. 

Recognize Technology’s Role

To help successfully restructure curriculum and provide development for in-demand skills, higher education leaders should recognize the role technology can play in providing more robust skills development. Not only can introducing more technology into the classroom help create value for students; in fact, technology can also help drive enrollment in continuing education programs.

‘To help successfully restructure curriculum and provide development for in-demand skills, higher education leaders should recognize the role technology can play in providing more robust skills development.’

For example, tech can help create more curated recommendations and experiences for learners by understanding what skills are both desirable and valuable based on their previous coursework and desired career paths. Providing these curated experiences helps meet students where they are on their educational journeys and is another way to ensure learners are developing necessary skills through varied pathways that help them end up where they want to be in their professional careers.

Long-Term Success

In conclusion, providing effective skills development is just as important to the long-term success of learners and higher education institutions alike. By identifying which skills are most important to which programs, reworking their curriculum to provide more robust skills development, and leveraging technology to help scale their continuing education programs, administrators in higher education will see their schools more prepared for long-term successes and profitability.

Danny King is the CEO and Co-Founder of Accredible, a global digital credentialing platform that serves certificates and badges on behalf of MIT, Harvard, Google, Skillsoft, IEEE, GMAC, McGraw Hill and over 1,000 others. He founded the company in 2012 with Alan Heppenstall, with the vision of becoming the world’s first truly verifiable repository of human capital. Connect on LinkedIn.


    Leave a Comment

    %d bloggers like this: