Skill-Based Education Partnerships Provide Soft Skills and Technical Skills for a New Generation of Talent

Published on January 22, 2024

Interest in skills-driven education is gaining momentum among employers. Why is this happening? Short-term, skill-based programs provide employers with a practical way to address the hiring shortage of qualified talent in the workforce.

Upswing of Interest in Skills

In the early 2000s, employers added degree requirements when hiring for roles that previously didn’t need a degree. Employers have adapted their criteria in recent years as the demand for talent outstrips supply.

According to research mentioned in Harvard Business Review, a 2022 analysis of 51 million job postings between 2017 and 2020 revealed that businesses are “resetting degree requirements on a wide variety of roles.” Increasingly, employers are considering skill-based training when evaluating qualified candidates in today’s labor force. Hiring managers have relaxed stringent degree requirements.

Similarly, 2023 survey data indicates that recruiters are fifty percent more likely to search by skills than they are to search by years of experience. Skills-first hiring is poised to be a priority at companies.

When businesses struggle to find talent, they deemphasize degrees or completely forgo degree requirements, according to Burning Glass Institute. Companies are more willing to hire people with technical skill-based credentials and certificates. Candidates who complete flexible, skills-based programs and other postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) possess the technical skills that hiring managers and recruiters seek.

A Range of Skills Sought

While short-term, CTE programs deliver technical skills, many firms still seek new hires with a four-year degree. Why is that? Some business leaders believe that universities remain the best place to earn a four-year degree and build “soft” or “human” skills.

Soft skills are essential core and foundational abilities that we need to effectively communicate, lead and manage people. Such skills include empathy, collaboration, conflict resolution and adaptive thinking. Businesses need people with a strong balance of technical skills and human skills. However, in-demand soft skills can also be taught and strengthened outside of a four-year degree program.

Some universities have recognized this market shift as skills-based education has gained traction among employers.

Meeting Market Demand for Skills-based Talent

Innovative two- and four-year degree-focused institutions are adapting to a shifting post-secondary landscape. For example, the University of Missouri Kansas City established UMKC TalentLink to provide short-term professional development and training that builds technical and soft skills.

In 2020, UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal anticipated a growing need for more professional development in the community. Chancellor Agrawal understood the opportunity for higher education to offer noncredit-based training in both technical and human skills. UMKC Talent Link provides skills-focused training and development for businesses, nonprofits, and people seeking to upskill or reskill and advance their careers.

UMKC TalentLink serves employers that seek to attract new hires and retain existing employees. Specifically, employers can turn to UMKC TalentLink as a resource for building employees’ technical and soft skills in a short timeframe that’s cost-effective.

UMKC TalentLink Executive Director Jake Akehurst says, “When we talk about soft skills, we’re referring to leadership, communication, management and related skills. These skills are essential both at the leadership level and when collaborating within teams.”

Short-term courses, workshops and programs enable employees to gain or strengthen technical skills in fields like healthcare, manufacturing, data analysis and IT. UMKC TalentLink also provides training in soft skills applicable to daily business operations, leadership, team building, and management.

How Skills-driven Training Helps Employers

UMKC TalentLink’s offerings can develop new hires who lack the full array of skills needed in a position. Experienced employees can develop more advanced skills to fill critical roles.

Employers that invest in upskilling opportunities for employees can generate valuable returns in productivity, boost retainment and develop talent for advancement. Establishing a reputation as a firm that engages and develops its workforce can also attract candidates who seek employers committed to their growth.

Workforce upheaval due to the pandemic and other forces has complicated the hiring search for skilled talent, especially in industries like healthcare. Older experienced employees that retire or job hop create skills gaps. Multiple generations of employees in the workplace with varied communication and management styles spur challenges. Hybrid work has also disrupted workflow protocol and internal professional development.

“The transfer of knowledge between generations as well as learning these skills on the job has become less reliable and consistent. Yet, foundational human skills remain necessary in every area of work,” says Akehurst.

To address these factors, UMKC TalentLink’s training helps employers to remain nimble and adapt.

Akehurst says, “It’s a practical way to engage employees who want to advance in the organization and to shore up internal needs. Investing in skills-based development delivers a useful blend of technical and human skills and yields valuable returns.”

UMKC TalentLink’s team collaborates with its clients to understand critical needs and craft effective training. Then UMKC TalentLink draws on subject matter experts and industry practitioners to deliver practical training applicable to the workplace.

Industry Focus: Healthcare Needs Skilled Employees

In the Kansas City healthcare market, an ongoing shortage of qualified candidates requires a complementary market-friendly approach to training and hiring.

For reference, let’s examine a 2024 Economic Forecast Report from the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC). The healthcare sector is anticipated to lead employment growth through 2025 in the Kansas City region. The report cites figures from Lightcast indicating that the number of job postings in Kansas City's healthcare sector exceeds the national average. Specific in-demand jobs include medical assistants, dental assistants, pharmacy technicians, patient care technicians, and registered nurses.

The report shares several key conclusions. One, “workforce is the constraint on economic growth moving forward.” Two, “investment to raise the productivity of the current workforce will be paramount going forward.”

Strategic Partnership Targets Healthcare Employer Constraints

Healthcare employers are consistently challenged to fill positions with workers who have requisite entry-level technical and soft skills. UMKC TalentLink is positioned to help alleviate this constraint on the supply of available healthcare workers.

“In addition to our own network of expert trainers, we collaborate with trusted, high-quality providers to meet specific workforce challenges in key industries,” says Akehurst.

In 2022, UMKC TalentLink partnered with MedCerts as a strategic healthcare training provider. UMKC TalentLink offers more than thirty MedCerts programs where job seekers can gain both technical and soft skills to work as a medical billing specialist, surgical technician or other healthcare role.

The partnership addresses the need for more allied health workers by helping healthcare employers to develop talent pipelines.

Through UMKC TalentLink, healthcare employers can utilize MedCerts’ healthcare certification programs to upskill or reskill existing employees as a training investment. That approach aligns with MARC’s report calling for investment to raise workforce productivity. In-house employees already familiar with workplace culture can gain added-value skills and be hired for needed healthcare positions.

Further, UMKC TalentLink can work with healthcare employers to establish a pathway for MedCerts program graduates to be hired for in-demand positions. Once online training is completed, trainees who complete certification are qualified for entry-level roles and a healthcare career.

Skills-based Training Can Strengthen Workforce and Boost Economic Growth

In summary, UMKC TalentLink and its training partners, such as MedCerts, can bolster the efforts of employers to attract and develop skilled workers needed in healthcare and other fields.

“UMKC TalentLink connects the dots in our business community and among job seekers. We help employers and professionals learn about these skills-based opportunities. These programs and courses can positively impact their future,” says Akehurst.

Healthcare employers can turn to resources like UMKC TalentLInk and MedCerts, discuss their recruitment and retainment shortfalls, and craft a viable solution. Meeting that market need helps healthcare employers better serve their community.

Start a conversation with UMKC TalentLink and learn more.

Written by
Rafael Castaneda
Senior Vice President of Workforce Development

With more than 20 years in the postsecondary arena, Rafael has focused on workforce strategies that build programmatic pathways for unemployed and underemployed students from underserved populations.

Before joining MedCerts, Rafael was the chief academic officer and dean of education at CBD College, a private two-year allied health college in Los Angeles. He also served as a strategy and innovation leader for Jobs for the Future (JFF) crafting connections between postsecondary actors and thought leaders. He is a member of the advisory board of the University of California, Irvine’s Customer Experience Program. Rafael has worked with over 2K schools and 1K workforce organizations & employers on solutions.

He strongly believes the three-legged stool of workforce success are schools, businesses, and community organizations but they need a catalyst and that is where MedCerts comes in – as the driver of the solutions to supplement and complement the three.

A passionate believer in education as a great equalizer, Rafael joined MedCerts because the organization provides the opportunity to actively participate in bridging the digital divide and skills gap for unserved populations of students. This extremely rewarding and tangible championing of education-based initiatives alongside serving all demographics students provides a rare opportunity to not just speak, but do.

Rafael is a husband to a brilliant and talented wife, father to two ambitious daughters, and an active member of his community. You will find him at a spin class most weekday mornings and doing outside activities with his family and their French bulldog, Penny, on the weekends. He has lived and worked in all time zones and in nine states over the past 12 years. Connect with Rafael on LinkedIn.

Published on January 22, 2024

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