Which major issue facing the U.S. economy are associations well positioned to fix? The “skills gap.”
Employers are facing the “skills gap” as Baby Boomers retire faster than Millennials develop a similar skill set. This phenomenon—also known as “aging out”—is having a similar effect on associations. Older members are retiring at a faster pace than new members are replacing them. What some might see as a problem can actually be a great opportunity for associations. Establishing credentialing programs for young professionals can be a smart way to attract the next generation of members.
Earlier this year, Millennials passed Baby-Boomers as the largest age group in the workforce. Some associations have struggled to find ways to recruit this age group. As Associations Now points out, however, credentialing can be a way to attract Millennials. This seems like a natural fit for associations. In fact, most already include industry-specific training as part of their mission. Not only can training attract new members, it will also enhance your value to these new members. Establishing your association as the go-to resource for young members will have a positive impact on your organization for many years.
Credentialing programs for Millennials rely on many of the same traditional instructional design fundamentals that have been in place for years. But there are some things to keep in mind, especially when it comes to including technology in your courses. So, before you create your next program, here are five tips that will help your association’s courses become the go-to resource for Millennials.
Tip #1: Don’t just create courses for Millennials, create them for your industry
When helping to create the workforce of the future, the first challenge is to match the training program to the eventual needs of the industry. It may be tempting to ask your younger members for input on which courses they would like to take. The danger with this approach is you may end up teaching skills that are useful today but may not be what the industry actually needs over the long term.
A better approach to selecting course content is by talking with industry leaders about the skills they’ll need in the future. Asking for their input gives you a forward-looking perspective–one that someone new to the industry will not be able to provide.
Creating a training course based on the industry’s anticipated skills gap over the next five years will put your association in a position to be a long-term leader in providing skilled workers.
Tip #2 There is still room for in-person instruction
Technology enables learning opportunities that didn’t exist a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean traditional, in-person instruction is obsolete. Traditional classroom learning remains a valuable format for associations teaching members. In fact, there are some topics that just need the high-level interaction that only comes from instructors and learners being in the same physical location. One example of training that can’t be replicated online is a course in safe food-handling procedures. It’s important to let your content choose the right format for your class.
Tip #3: Use technology appropriately
Millennials have lived their entire lives using technology. So it’s a natural tendency to feel the need to use technology to appeal to them. Using technology just for technology’s sake is a recipe for disaster, though. Before you invest the time or money involved in taking your program materials online, for example, make sure they support your larger learning objectives. Providing a training manual online is a great way to distribute the most up-to-date materials to your learners. Just make sure that your site includes an option for note-taking similar to a traditional manual.
When used appropriately, incorporating technology to enhance course materials provides tremendous value for members.
Tip #4: Blended learning pairs tradition and technology
Earlier this year, Omnipress conducted a survey on the learning habits of Millennials. One of the surprising findings was that 59% of respondents indicated they found it easier to learn from print than digital materials. (You can read the entire survey results here.) While online courses provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist, traditional educational materials can increase Millennials’ learning retention. So, even if your geographically diverse membership prevents you from holding in-person training, offering physical course materials is still a good option.
Blended learning is a great way of taking advantage of both tradition and technology.
Tip #5: Digital credentials offer value to your association and learner
If your course provides a certificate or other form of recognition for completing the course, offering a digital credential can be a worthwhile use of technology. A “digital credential” is an online badge that allows your learners to easily share their accomplishments on social media sites like LinkedIn. These badges also serve as a great way of advertising your association within the learner’s network. This word-of-mouth advertising is effective in boosting your program’s visibility.
Associations are in a unique position to help create the next generation of workers, and at the same time, solidify their position as a valuable resource for members. This win-win situation will help forward-thinking associations that have the training programs in place to close the skills gap. Choosing the right skills for your courses is a crucial first step that should have input from industry leaders, not just students. Successful associations will be able to find a balance between traditional education and technology that reinforces their learning objectives. In the end, positioning your association as the go-to resource for the youngest members of your industry is a smart way to grow your membership.