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It’s important for employers to consider how pandemic-related lifestyle disruptions may impact an employee’s capacity to seize opportunities for training and career advancement. We have some unique insight on the subject, plus 5 proven ways to better support parents as they juggle work, training, and parenting.

According to The National Parents Union Coronavirus Impact Survey, most parents are wary of sending their kids back to school. However, most parents also admit that managing work and childcare has been “very difficult” during the pandemic. Adding to their list of concerns, more than half of employees worldwide feel worried about losing their jobs this year.

One reason for their heightened anxiety is growing awareness surrounding the potential for technology to render certain careers obsolete. As a result, the majority of the global workforce is actively seeking opportunities to upskill or reskill for the jobs of the future. But even if IT upskilling and reskilling programs are made available and the desire to learn is strong, not every employee has the bandwidth to succeed.

The Many Shades of Equity in Education

Many employers have accepted responsibility for preparing employees to take on more technical roles, but equity remains a prominent challenge in workplace education. While the topic of inequity is most often associated with minority groups and underserved populations, situational inequity exists as well.

For example, a working parent overwhelmed by pandemic-related lifestyle disruptions may not feel as capable of capitalizing on training and career advancement opportunities as other employees. Luckily, there are several ways that employers can encourage working parents to pursue training and career advancement opportunities while navigating the perils of parenting amid the latest COVID resurgence.

1. Set a realistic learning pace.

The duration of any training program has a direct and significant impact on cost. As such, employers tend to subconsciously fixate on overhead expenses rather than the conditions required to achieve learning outcomes. For example, an accelerated 12-week program might look good on paper compared to a 6-month training program, but the intensity of a bootcamp-style program increases the risk that certain participants won’t make it through the course.

For this reason, we recommend giving special consideration to the pace of learning and the intensity of the course when considering possible solutions for technical education. Working parents with school-age children may not have the same stamina as employees without children or with older kids. In such cases, a slower learning pace will provide necessary leeway to manage coursework and keep up with the curriculum.

2. Choose a flexible training format

Technical education can be divided into two basic formats: synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous training is similar to traditional classroom-style learning, involving a live instructor and collaboration with fellow students.

Asynchronous training programs are more self-paced, relying heavily on online coursework that can be completed at the learner’s convenience.

Both offer key advantages, but neither is ideal for all learner populations. Parents, in particular, require a balance between flexibility and accountability. Asynchronous programs require exceptional motivation and time management, two attributes that may be in short supply if parents already feel overwhelmed outside of work. On the other hand, synchronous programs require that all students commit to the same schedule, which may not be feasible for parents juggling a dozen other commitments on behalf of their family.

In this case, the best approach is a hybrid solution that offers the structure and accountability of scheduled online class time but also allows for some flexibility with independent coursework.

3. Conduct Readiness Testing

It’s better for an employee to NOT enroll in training at all than it is for an employee to enroll, struggle, and drop out. Failure can be damaging to morale, company culture, and the overall employee experience. The best way to ensure that participants have what it takes to see a program all the way through is to assess applicants for readiness. This is particularly important if choosing to run a bootcamp-style training program, which will require a higher level of readiness than slower-paced courses that provide learners with more time to “catch up”.

Readiness testing is not about assessing someone’s ability to learn technical skills; it’s about determining if they have the foundational skills needed to be successful. If, for example, readiness testing reveals that an employee lacks in certain areas, they can be advised to seek additional pre-course tutoring to strengthen basic skills before making a larger commitment.

4. Use The Flipped Classroom Model to Maximize In-Class Time

The last thing working parents want is to feel as though the time they spend away from family isn’t productive. Some programs will spend classroom time passively reviewing course material while out-of-class time is spent working on projects. In a flipped classroom learning format, employees consume lecture materials and content on their own time and reserve classroom time for working on projects and answering questions. This learning format ensures that the more strenuous work is conducted with plenty of support and guidance from a live instructor and gives working parents the flexibility to prepare for assessments and projects on their own time.

5. Implement real-life simulations that count toward work productivity.

Working parents are master multi-taskers. While it’s important to relieve working parents of their work duties whenever possible during training so that they can focus energy on developing new IT skills, it is possible to sneak some work productivity into the coursework — for example, designing activities that involve the use of actual company data to develop analytical skills and insights that can be used to inform real strategies. Keep in mind, when it comes to instructional design, most solutions cannot offer this degree of customization. You’ll need a technical education provider that specializes in tailored programming, not “turn-key” solutions.

3 Pro Tips to Ensure Success

As the stakes grow higher for organizations to enhance their technical capabilities, investments in education for IT upskilling and reskilling must be more intentional and strategic. In addition to considering the unique needs of each individual employee, we also recommend:

1) Selecting an education provider that has a proven process for measuring learner progress and performance. More importantly, this process must be performed within the context of specific learning outcomes.

2) Having a strategy for reassimilate working parents back into their respective roles. To ensure that training sticks, provide plenty of mentorship and ongoing learning opportunities.

3) Creating a plan for how the company will put new employee skills into practice as quickly as possible. Note, deciding how to integrate new technical skills into standard operations will require involvement from management teams across the organization.

There’s a lot to learn about technical education for IT upskilling and reskilling. As one of the original founders of accelerated learning for technical skills, we make an excellent go-to source for the latest information. Subscribe to our blog and stay in the know.

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