As Americans begin to find footing in a soon-to-be post-pandemic world, it’s time to examine where the greatest needs for education lie and how the institutions and NPOs of higher ed can rise to meet the moment. According to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education assessment, practical skills training for workforce re-entry is one area demanding urgent attention by educators.

While unemployment has dropped significantly since 2020, around 9 million Americans remain out of work, with women and nonwhite workers especially hard hit. And many of the jobs lost during the pandemic no longer make sense in the altered, post-pandemic world. It’s hardly surprising that recent Pew Research findings indicate 66% of currently unemployed people report seriously considering changing their occupation or field of work, and about one-third report having already taken steps to retool their skills through education.

As leaders in higher education, what can we do to pave more accessible pathways to employment for the learners we serve and, particularly, for adults seeking to upskill or change careers?

At my organization, TCS Education System, we have long prioritized practical, skill-based training as a key determiner of student success. Because our partner colleges and universities share a common commitment to accessibility, we have naturally attracted a high proportion of adult learners, career changers, and other “non-traditional” students. Based on my experience, I share, below, several key principles that help govern our approach and may be of value to other leaders seeking to deepen their focus in practical skills training.

When students learn in a context that places equal value on “real world” experience and formal coursework, dynamics that might pose barriers to advancement instead serve as catalysts for success. Of course, the idea of drawing on life experience in the classroom makes intuitive sense when designing a rich educational environment.

Read the full article about practical skills training in higher ed by Michael Horowitz at Forbes.