Penn Foster has a very unique position within the Education sector as we straddle the intersection between traditional online degree-granting programs and career-focused training for the middle-skilled worker. Lately, we've been hearing lots of buzz about "demand-driven workforce development' across multiple sectors: non-governmental organizations, youth organizations, and corporate social responsibility initiatives within the private sector. Given that we are currently living through a major transformative era in the way the world learns - education's "Internet moment' so to speak - we are curious to know what the implications will be for demand-driven workforce development initiatives.Meeting at a conference table

We believe the opportunities for a fundamental shift in our current model of recruiting and retaining workers are staggering, and that the alliance between online education and workforce development will be paramount to the future of society.

A Brief History of Employee Loyalty

The concept of employee loyalty has drastically changed since the mid-century era when "jobs for life' was the norm. Back then there were large corporate training programs where employers invested in their employees by offering skills training over great lengths of time.1 Corporate giants like GE, IBM, and Xerox had residential programs that were structured and regimented in order to enroll and indoctrinate the workforce to prepare them for a lifetime of work at the company.

While historically, employee loyalty was cultivated over decades, today this paradigm has shifted  due to the fact that this model of workforce development  is no longer profitable for today's economy.2

The "gig economy' has given rise to flexible employment. In contrast to a job for life, employees can float from job to job throughout their lifetime with the increasing portability of services like retirement, health care, and education. While previous generations expected to hold just one or a few jobs over the course of their lifetime, late baby-boomers will hold 11.7 jobs3 and millennials are projected to have 15-20 jobs in their lifetime.4

Today's Converging Factors Create a New System

Several converging factors are laying the foundation for a new system of workforce development, including job mobility, a widening skills gap, and a massive influx of graduates flooding the market who are not prepared for 21st Century careers. The basic social compact of the 20th century of loyalty and lifetime work at a company is no longer desired by employees or expected by employers. While the gap widens between the number of qualified candidates and the number of jobs that need filling, employers grow tired of non-skilled applicants, and the old recruiting model fails to meet today's skill demands.

Companies like Google are increasingly recognizing the value in recruiting non-traditional candidates. Job seekers with diverse life experience, who have exhibited the ability to overcome setbacks, and who have demonstrated adequate cognitive ability are now being selected over ivy-leaguers and polished resume holders. Why are these qualities attractive to employers at Google? It's due to the fact that these candidates bring more real-life experience to the table and are more likely to have that elusive quality which many employers indicate is the #1 determinant in career success: grit.

Our nation's modern education system has yet to catch up with the information age. The college track is not necessarily the right fit for all students anymore and this path does not adequately prepare students with the skills employers are looking for. Additionally, the ROI for a college education is coming into question with the rising cost of postsecondary degrees - it is well documented that millennials are burdened with massive student debtMeanwhile, we're witnessing a growing acceptance of online learning as a reputable alternative solution to brand-name schools.

Recommended for You: Part II " Why Companies Need Demand-Driven Workforce Development Now

Resources: Photo Credit. (1) Future Forces: The Evolution of Employment Models (2) Declining Employee Loyalty: A Casualty of the New Workplace  (3) Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, And Earnings Growth Among the Youngest Baby Boomers: Results from a Longitudinal Survey (4) Job Hopping Is the 'New Normal' for Millennials: Three Ways to Prevent a Human Resource Nightmare