From Nanodegrees to Mini-MBAs: The Micro-Education Trend

by: Meghan Behse

Remember when the “Education” section of a resume was two brief lines outlining the institution attended and the degree or diploma earned? Well, today, that little corner of the CV is exploding with certifications and credentials, often from programs employers have never heard of. The reason behind this trend in continued education is simple: an increase in both supply and demand.

The upswing in demand can be traced back to two factors: access and an ever-evolving and competitive job market. Online educational offerings have made it possible for students to enrol in programs from all over the world. Many already in the workforce are taking advantage of this to learn skills not taught when they were students, and their employers are agreeing to fund their educational endeavours, giving them more time and flexibility to learn.

This employer supporter is not just altruistic. In many fields–technology is an obvious example–employers recognize that their employees must continually update their knowledge and skills to stay at the top of their field. Furthermore, employers are increasingly asking their employees to diversify their skill sets beyond their core responsibilities.

The supply side of this equation is perhaps more interesting. Post-secondary education is increasingly stepping outside the parameters of traditional institutions and becoming the role of nonprofits and enterprises. The Google Analytics Academy is an obvious example. Google offers free online courses covering fundamentals to in-depth programs for ecommerce and mobile app analytics. And nonprofits like the popular Ladies Learning Code are emerging out of the need to make certain fields, like web development, more inclusive.

Udacity, a higher education company created by Stanford research professor and former Google fellow Sebastian Thrun, offers highly respected 12-month “nanodegrees” for the tech community. Its credential programs are creating specialized job applicants for tech roles that are in high demand.
This continued education trend is making its way back to traditional institutions too. Companies like Coursera have partnered with universities around the world in order to develop a platform that offers hundreds of online courses that are affordable, accessible, and specialized.

Even Canada’s largest universities are getting on board, adapting their most respected programs to offer expedited credential builders, like the Rotman Executive Program at the University of Toronto and the McGill Executive Institute. Each offer mini-MBAs designed to teach the fundamentals in strategic planning, finance, governance, etc. in just weeks. These programs allow employees to learn the essentials before moving into a team-lead or executive role at their companies.

So what does all of this mean in terms of employment trends? In an article for Fast Company, Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork–the popular online platform that connects freelancers with contract work– argues that specialized learning will lead to shorter-term relationships between employers and employees.

Whether this does become the case, in an increasingly unstable and uncertain job market, expect the “Education” sections of CVs to keep growing.

Leave a Reply