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The race to reskill. Can universities catch up to ed tech?

Protocol Workplace

Hello and welcome back to our weekly workplace newsletter where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed! Follow along for all the news you need to know at the intersection of tech and the workplace.

—Amber Burton, Reporter (twitter | email)

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The Big Picture

Universities chase ed tech in the race to reskill workers

Ed tech companies (most of them, anyway) make it clear: Their goal is not to compete with or replace the traditional university degree. They've instead focused on reskilling and upskilling workers for jobs in tech by partnering with corporations to offer training in everything from self-driving cars to AI.

But now, colleges and universities are entering the chat.

  • Some are working to create more hybrid degree offerings to help companies stop the drain of talent.
  • If this year's labor shortage has proved anything, it's that there's room for everyone in this challenge to get people trained and retained in jobs.
  • According to Eightfold AI's March 2021 survey of over 200 manager-level employees, almost 50% said their top management goal for the year is to cross-train and upskill their employees, while almost 30% said their goal is to reduce turnover rates.

They claim they're not coming for the ed tech companies either. "There's room for many different ways of doing this," said Martial Hebert, Carnegie Mellon University's dean of the School of Computer Science and professor of robotics. "It's not that one is better than another. It serves different populations, with different goals."

But they are going after tech workers who already have a little experience under their belts. Hebert and his colleagues are currently thinking about how their programs can be reformatted for professionals.

  • Gone are the days when professionals would willingly quit their jobs in order to obtain additional credentials to get a promotion. So for Hebert it's all about creating access to a wider population that might not have had the opportunity to go back to school before.
  • He and his colleagues are starting by creating AI education offerings for upskilling and reskilling. While there's demand from companies across industries, "the challenge, of course, is to tailor that education to the background of those students," he said.
  • Meanwhile, Clemson is working on a hybrid degree for reskilling workers that would be online and occasionally in-person. Venkat Krovi, the chair of vehicle automation in the Departments of Automotive Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, said a lot of the concepts that need to be mastered in areas like machine learning and self-driving cars call for hands-on labs, a real cohort and instructors you can interact with.

Distilling these complex concepts online is the biggest hurdle for online education, Krovi said. "If you had a perfectly motivated person then they could simply pick up a textbook," he said, "and all the information that one needs is out on the web, and so you parse through that and then you're able to get yourself where you need to be." But we are all far from perfect.

Ed tech companies know well the steep attrition rates that come with teaching technical lessons online. Universities have the opportunity to step in and offer some of the unique advantages of cohorts and professors that push students to complete a course.

So where does that leave the industry? At this point, the job of reskilling tech workers is anyone's game. Or maybe everyone's.

Work Spot

How older workers are getting sidelined in tech.

That forced karaoke night or team-bonding happy hour might not be appealing to all your employees. "There might be single moms who can't stay after work, or somebody with a disability who can't do whatever the fun physical game is," said Karen Wickre, a former senior media liaison for Google's global communications, in conversation with my colleague Sarah Roach.

Older tech workers like Wickre have found that working in IT, where over half the workforce is aged 22 to 44 years old, comes with its own set of problems — namely, exclusion and ageism. Currently, the average developer is 29 years old, according to Recruiting Innovation. And while it may seem like older workers are simply being skilled out of rapidly changing tech jobs, oftentimes their reasons for leaving are far from technical.

Read the full story here.


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Today's Tips & Tool

How to digitize your vaccine card

More companies are requiring employees to show proof of vaccination as they come back to the office. Even airlines are following suit for passengers. Here's how you can upload your vaccine card to your phone so you don't have to worry about losing track of the paper card:

  • Why you should do this: Because, let's face it, you've woken up several times in the middle of the night worried that you've misplaced the paper card issued by the CDC, and you can hardly keep up with your actual passport. Digitizing your card is as simple as taking a photo or copy and uploading it to an app on your phone. Not to mention, the number of places in which you will need this is steadily increasing.
  • What apps you can use: There are several "virtual vaccine passports," one being CLEAR (yes, the same one that gets you through airport security). A free version of the Health Pass by CLEAR allows users to upload their vaccine card, making travel just a little easier. Apple's coming software update will also include an update to the Health app so people can store their vaccination records. There are also other apps like Vax Yes and CommonPass. Of course, you could also just take a photo with your phone and save it in your notes app.
  • Best use case: To prove you can go back to the office, to take a flight on a moment's notice to "work from home" in Cancun. And, of course, to show proof of vaccination to attend the wedding of the distant cousin you haven't seen in almost a decade.

Get Stuff Done

Creating a hybrid work culture

Should you schedule a Zoom talent show or start planning your next corporate offsite? These are the questions leadership and management are asking as they strive to create a stronger corporate culture in the time of hybrid work. Protocol's panel of experts will gather on Sept. 15 to discuss how to best manage the transition to a more hybrid workforce and keep employees engaged. Panelists will discuss everything from tech tools and how to avoid proximity bias to approaching DEI issues in a hybrid workplace. Join us for the conversation.


Making Moves

  • ServiceMax announced Sophie Ames has been hired as the company's chief human resources officer. Ames was most recently the senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Veritas.
  • Jinny Jun has joined CloudBees as the new chief people officer. Prior, Jun was senior vice president and head of people strategy at Welldoc.
  • Patreon acquired tech recruiting company, Clear Talent, to boost its talent acquisition efforts and recruit more technical talent.

By The Numbers

The future of work and time

  • The pandemic has changed the way employees think about time and work. The average workweek has increased to about 45 hours according to a recent survey performed by Adobe about how workers and business owners spend their time.
  • 45% of enterprise workers said they are having trouble setting work and personal life boundaries, according to Adobe's survey.
  • 63% of high-growth companies have adopted a "productivity anywhere" workforce model, according to the Accenture Future of Work Study 2021.

Around The Internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

  • Startups have won the return-to-office debate among tech companies by simply offering remote-friendly work. (TechCrunch)
  • So… what if your employees no longer want a career? (Galaxy Brain)
  • Slack gave us all a glimpse into the highly secretive world of working at Apple and it's not pretty. (The Information)
  • Your new gym might look a little like your office: hybrid. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Accenture is quietly cleaning up some of Facebook's most toxic posts… for the low price of $500 million a year. (The New York Times)


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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great week, see you next Wednesday.

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