Kevin O’ Connor
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has been a leader in important initiatives in southeast Wisconsin and beyond for decades.
It’s leadership role in preparing the region’s workforce for the future may be one of its most important yet.
UWM educates thousands of undergraduate and graduate students each year and engages additional learners through its School of Continuing Education and other initiatives. Now, the University is stepping forward to lead efforts to reskill and upskill the region’s workers through TechEd Frontiers.
TechEd Frontiers, UWM’s workforce development solution, reskills and upskills employees to fill the skills gaps of the region’s employers. The online, self-paced pathways help employers grow their own talent and employees future proof their careers.
“UWM recognized the need for more nimble dynamic links between our programs and the emerging needs of industry,” UWM Vice Provost Phyllis King said. “We are seeing much deeper relationships between industry and academia that ultimately yield a better prepared workforce.”
TechEd Frontiers is working particularly closely with industry to create learning pathways that fill skills gaps in high-need areas. The first two TechEd Frontiers pathways – Cybersecurity Analyst I and Data Analytics and Visualization with Excel – are focused on skills and needs identified by industry. These same industries, who are represented on the TechEd Frontiers Industry Advisory Council, are realizing the most cost-effective and efficient way to build these skills in their workforce is to grow their talent from within.
“It has helped us to listen to employers and then adapt our education to their changing needs,” King said. “There is more interest in shorter-term learning and skills acquisition. We’re hearing a lot more about skills and competencies than we are about learning outcomes. Employers are desiring the acquisition of those skills and competencies in their employees in a much more affordable manner and in shorter timeframes.”
While companies still do extensive hiring from an external pool of candidates, they are becoming more focused on opportunities to fill skills gaps from within their existing human resources. Lifelong learning is now a reality in many industries. The skills and competencies of a single employee when hired may be obsolete in the near future due to advancements in technologies and work practices. Learning will need to be continuous.
“Learn and work used to be more separated functions,” King said. “Work is now more often intertwined with learning. Upskilling or reskilling and the need for continuous learning are expected to grow. Employers are increasingly paying for it – to remain competitive and thrive in the marketplace””
There is also the factor of time. Busy employees can only commit so much of their schedule to learning, while employers are looking to fill their needs immediately.
“Enrolling in a four-year or even a two-year degree program may not be accommodating or attractive for someone who is already employed,” King said. “Employees are looking for shorter term learning options. Reskilling and upskilling with a program like TechEd Frontiers means meeting the needs of both the employer and employee in less time at a lower cost.”