Apr 04 2023

New Workforce Development Program Allows Upskilling Students to Earn College Credit

In addition to picking up valuable certifications, students can work toward undergraduate or graduate degrees through CDW’s partnership with Excelsior University.

The enrollment crisis in higher education shows few signs of waning.

Undergraduate college enrollment fell a staggering 8 percent between 2019 and 2022, according to a report in March from The Associated Press, which said that blaming the dip solely on the COVID-19 pandemic was a mistake. Students are questioning the value of expensive college tuition and the wisdom of incurring years of student debt. They are also wondering whether a degree is even needed to stand out in a labor market that continues to suffer from a lack of available workers.

The answer to each of those questions is often no, particularly in fields that have critical shortages, such as IT and cybersecurity.

In response to both declining enrollment and the emerging opportunities in the workforce, some higher education institutions have turned to new sources of enrollees: adult learners looking to finish a once-abandoned college journey or those already in the workforce who need additional training to take the next step in their careers. Excelsior University has long been a leader in higher education for nontraditional students and has partnered with CDW to help people quickly develop the skills and competencies needed to fill workforce gaps in IT and cybersecurity.

Microcredential and certificate programs were first popularized by online colleges but have been adopted by traditional universities, which are responding to a more competitive education market by delivering innovative programs that are in demand and doing so in more flexible learning modalities that students want.

Accelerated professional education courses, including the ones offered by CDW Workforce Development, primarily target people looking to enhance their careers, refresh their skills or transition to higher-paying jobs in cybersecurity. The courses are taught by practicing experts in their IT fields and cover a broad swath of the IT and cybersecurity spectrum, from foundational to advanced skills, as well as training on vendor-specific tools and systems. The courses are updated constantly, using input from instructors who are actively practicing in the field to keep the course material on the cutting edge.

The one thing all of these credential programs have not been able to offer students is a path to a college degree. However, that is no longer the case.

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How Can Microcredentials Get You Closer to a College Degree?

CDW Workforce Development has partnered with Excelsior to offer the same high-level, accelerated courses, taught online by experts in their field, that simultaneously earn enrollees college credits that can be applied toward an undergraduate or graduate degree.

The courses taught by CDW Workforce Development take advantage of CDW’s relationships with vendors throughout the IT world by giving students the opportunity to work hands-on with the latest tech tools from brands such as Amazon Web Services, Cisco and Palo Alto Networks. There are no dry labs and no outdated tools in these programs.

Through partnerships in the IT world, CDW Workforce Development also offers courses that can help students earn certifications from well-regarded industry associations, including CompTIA, the EC-Council and (ISC)2.

LEARN MORE: How workforce training can maximize ROI on cybersecurity investments.

Students cannot earn a degree solely by taking these courses, but in combination with other general education requirements, the credits can be applied toward a degree at Excelsior or transferred elsewhere. CDW’s partnership with Excelsior affords opportunities to earn credit toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

IT employees who jumped into the workforce before completing an undergraduate degree but who have not been able to achieve a promotion because they lack that credential can now earn a degree and a potential promotion while continuing to work. Others who need a graduate degree to advance to a management position can take these courses to do just that.

Workforce Development Courses Can Benefit Workers and Employers

Along with the enrollment decline in higher ed, IT and cybersecurity departments have their own personnel concerns. Skilled employees are hard to come by, especially in the cybersecurity world, where CyberSeek reports there are more than 750,000 open jobs nationwide and employees are often lured away by recruiters offering better compensation and benefits.

Employers should work proactively to keep their people, using strategies such as IT succession plans and offering their employees the opportunity to continue learning through workforce development programs.

Employees want to keep learning, both to stay on top of their game and because new skills can help them move up in their careers. Research has shown that employers who offer that kind of training are more likely to have their now-loyal employees stay and put those skills to effective use in their office.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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