This is a shift away from dependency on tuition assistance and skills learned through higher education. Given the speed and scope of business, Persico said academic courses tend to lag behind learning needed for the marketplace.
IBM employees “can’t take six months to take a course in business analytics,” Persico said. “Our thing is that, if you get the freedom to focus on something for three days or five days, that’s a big deal … so going to the academic side just isn’t helpful because the content isn’t there.”
Organizations have not abandoned tuition assistance and continuing education, but the benefit is offered more frugally than in the past and is often viewed as a driver for employee attraction and retention.
“There’s been a bit of a twist,” said Brett Shively, vice president at the Keller Center for Corporate Learning at DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management. “Where you have programs for essentially training purposes [that] also serve the role of a degree program, you’ll often find that some of the courses are covered through the learning and development budget as 100 percent paid up front, as opposed to the tuition assistance program.”
DeVry is one of many institutions that partner with corporate clients to design customized learning for a firm’s specific business needs. Shively said some of the courses count as credit toward a degree. Others consist of non-degree focused training content.
GE’s Tate Cornell said continuing education still has a role in its employees’ education — not for the micro skills needed on the job, but to develop a more rounded employee or executive. And while GE fully reimburses employee tuition, employees have to communicate with managers to make sure courses taken match the organization’s business goals and objectives.