Workers invest in education during economic downturns, study shows

Dive Brief:

  • For every hundred workers laid off during economic recessions, researchers estimate that enrollment in two-year college programs increases by three students and completions of “career-technical programs” increase as well, according to the findings of a study published Oct. 1 in the MIT Education and Finance Policy journal.
  • The rise in enrollment accounts for half of the increase in labor force nonparticipation after widespread layoffs, the researchers said. 
  • Those who pursue education under these circumstances lean toward shorter degree programs or certificates and generally pursue programs with higher expected labor market returns, though results may vary, according to the study.

Dive Insight:

The study’s findings highlight the importance of education and retraining during this major shake up in the labor market. Moreover, organizations that invest in continuous development, or even education as an outplacement benefit, may help workers avoid lengthy terms of unemployment or at least smoothly transition into the training program for their next job.

Even before the pandemic, experts warned about a looming major job loss event, driven by automation and outdated skills within the labor force. The pandemic accelerated the outcomes of these predictions, with the Philadelphia Federal Reserve noting an increase in adoption of automation, with nonwhite workers disproportionately affected. This is why advocacy groups such as the National Skills Council promote policy solutions for an “inclusive economic recovery.”

The pandemic has also shifted the training needs of employers, who say they need more resilience, time management and technical abilities to handle uncertain times and the shift to remote work many organizations made. The skills gap starts from the moment workers enter the labor market, research shows, as new graduates are often lacking in these skills.

As automation becomes a larger factor in the workplace, experts say organizations must be aware of how this affects people and which tasks are best suited to automation. Data should be used to identify automatable, repetitive tasks that technology can handle, Sampath Sowmyanarayan, president of global enterprise at Verizon Business and co-author of a recent whitepaper on this subject, told HR Dive. “And then you focus employees on tasks that require empathy, creativity and cooperation.”  

Technology is also playing a larger role in training delivery, as ATD observed a significant rise in e-learning adoption while online learning, virtual reality and new course content are being developed as well, according to experts from Forrester and Gartner who spoke with HR Dive.

Source Article