A Wake Up Call for Upskilling

American higher education is broken. It’s incredibly expensive, it has deeply unequal outcomes, and it does not reflect the needs of the workforce. How can corporate learning & development fill in the gaps left by our broken education system?

American higher education is broken. It’s incredibly expensive: students graduate with an average debt burden of $27,000 from public four-year colleges and $32,000 from private schools (CNBC). It has deeply unequal outcomes: 74% of Asian-American and 60% of white college students complete college, compared to just 54% of Hispanic students and 40% of black students (NCES). And worse yet, traditional higher education doesn’t reflect the needs of employers or the workforce. Harvard Business School’s groundbreaking “Dismissed by Degrees” report found that over 6 million jobs are at risk of degree inflation: for example, 67% of production supervisor job postings required a college degree, even though only 16% of individuals in those roles have degrees.


Clearly, education needs to pivot - but to what? A lot has been written about Germany’s and Switzerland’s apprenticeship training programs, which create partnerships between the government, employers, and students to provide meaningful on-the-job training, incentives for companies to invest in their workforce, and pathways to earn a full degree in the future. Similar initiatives have started to gain traction in the U.S., especially with Skillful in Colorado and Indiana and Apprenticeship 2020 in Chicago. Elsewhere, we’ve seen a proliferation of bootcamps, income-sharing agreements, and micro-credentials which have the potential to serve as the backbone of a new higher education system. By and large, however, these solutions have largely remained on the outskirts rather than the center of higher education.


We believe that this happens because an essential ingredient is consistently under-utilized: corporate learning & development. According to Training Magazine, employees received an average of 42 hours of training in 2019, but just 28% of those hours come from blended learning environments that enable widespread and convenient access to learning materials. Furthermore, a large portion of L&D budgets and hours are dedicated to compliance rather than true upskilling.


Fundamentally, Learn In believes that this is a missed opportunity for every stakeholder in the education-to-employment pathway. Every year, employers spend millions of unnecessary dollars searching for and recruiting individuals on the basis of credentials while ignoring the vast pools of untapped talent at their disposal. Employees miss out on the chance to gain critical skills that would make them more productive - and loyal to their employers. Moreover, governments and educational institutions are missing a golden opportunity to enhance economic opportunity, broaden pathways to learning, and address deep-rooted inequalities.


Learn In’s platform helps companies remove the barriers that stand between them and meaningful, high-quality training for their workforce. Over the coming weeks, we’re excited to share our theory of change and how we can help employers and employees connect to excellent training programs, increase diversity & inclusion in L&D, and realize the ROI of upskilling. Stay tuned!