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The Wall Street Journal recently posed this question: “Why aren’t companies getting graduates with the skills they need?”

“The Experts” responded with their perspectives. Reasons cited ranged from “our college graduates can’t write” (Bruce Nolop, former CFO of Pitney Bowes, Inc. and E*Trade Financial Corp.) to “The world has changed since the industrial revolution, but universities have not” (Kenneth Freeman, Allen Questrom professor and dean of Boston University School of Management).  

Eric Speigel, President and CEO of Siemens USA, shared a different perspective.

Among other ideas, one of his suggestions focused on the need for companies to provide more on-the-job training for their employees. He writes:

“By 2011, Accenture found that only 21% of all U.S. employees had received any employer-provided training in the past five years. In other words, 80% of today's workforce is working jobs with little to no instruction since before the iPhone was invented!”   Eric Speigel, President and CEO of Siemens USA

Mr. Speigel raises a good point. Higher education certainly should play an important role in helping to provide students with the resources, knowledge and skills they need to be successful in today’s economy. That said, employers themselves should also invest in furthering employees’ skills and knowledge on the job.

Short-duration professional and executive education programs are just one example of the role higher education can play in helping organizations provide that on-the-job training.

As the author of this Forbes article reminds us, professionals will change careers an average of four or five times. This, among other forces, has created an ongoing need for continuous learning, possibly through short-duration professional and executive education and.

And after a multi-year decline, organizations seem to be once again selecting universities to educate their employees, as detailed in this Financial Times article.

What does the future hold? It’s possible that MOOCs and other online learning trends could significantly alter the professional and executive education landscape. After all, Coursera now boasts 50 online management courses, including four core Wharton MBA courses, as outlined in this recent StratEDgy post. Harvard Business School is poised to soon offer courses online as well, as summarized by Bloomberg.

At least in the near term, universities can continue to offer organizations consultative services and training programs that will play an important role in keeping employees up-to-date – whether through short-duration professional and executive education programs or certificates.

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