Why Continuing Education Is Necessary for Continuing Innovation

The United States has a robust higher education system which millions of students use to earn degrees and prepare for jobs and careers. As wonderful as four-year degrees are, however, students can no longer afford to think of higher education as a “once and done” solution that fulfills all their educational needs.

1.  A Rapidly Changing Marketplace

Many factors have led to rapid changes in today’s marketplace: advances in computing and robotics, the amount of data available for analysis, and an expectation that progress will keep marching forward day after day, just to name a few. The job you trained for just a few short years ago may not even be available now, or may have changed enough that your coursework is no longer sufficient training for the position.

2.  Outdated Programs and Poor Choices

Getting a degree in a particular subject or major isn’t a guarantee that you have received the training you need to be qualified for a job in that field. Some four-year degree programs are outdated and don’t provide needed information and experience, and it may be almost impossible to know this until you actually have the degree.

Another factor in the effectiveness of a four-year degree is whether you choose to take the courses you really need to get the job you want in the end. As an undergraduate student, you may not yet have the perspective you need to understand which courses would be most helpful. You may very well end up taking the wrong courses and neglecting to take the ones you need.

3.  New Ideas, New Courses

Even if you do take all the right courses and get a job you are well-qualified for, the field is bound to keep on changing as you work and build your career. Sooner or later, new ideas will enter the field, and you will need a way to access them and assimilate the new information in order to grow in your job.

In some fields like human resources and computer science, there are desirable certifications that can only be earned as you gain experience in the field, sometimes even beyond a four-year degree. While it is possible to earn some of the certifications without taking courses, coursework greatly improves the chances of success.

Continuing Education Options

Sure, there are traditional continuing education courses, but there are many other options as well. Online courses can provide flexibility, and microcredentialing allows students to get a series of smaller credentials over time rather than having to invest large amounts of time over years to earn additional degrees. Open courses offer another option for continued learning without incurring large expenses you can’t afford.

CCSU offers a number of continuing education options that could fit your lifestyle, even with a career and family. View open courses to see all the different courses we offer.

Why ‘Soft Skills’ Can Be Hard Work

Soft skills are an increasing focus for many companies. These skills include communication, leadership, management, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, among others. Soft skills are necessary in most jobs, particularly as you move up the ladder into supervising others and managing complex projects as a team leader or manager.

Most people possess some soft skills naturally or have developed them over time through experience, but many have weaknesses in some areas of soft skills and need help to develop them. For many, soft skills development can be hard work that takes considerable time and effort to develop.

Soft Skills are Deeply Ingrained

Once you are an adult who has had training for your current career, many of the behaviors that encompass soft skills have become ingrained in your personality and way of interacting in the workplace. Some of those behaviors will help your career performance or advancement, while others may be counterproductive and need to be changed to avoid being obstacles to your career.

The good news is that according to research, soft skills can be learned, or in the case of unwanted behaviors, unlearned. Behavioral scientists have managed to break the usual soft skills down into teachable pieces that can be reinforced in a classroom format through role play and practice. With an investment of time and effort, the vast majority of people can build their soft skills in ways that will advance their careers and help them be more effective at work.

Skills Assessments

Employers are increasingly using skills assessments to supplement interviews and resumes when hiring, and some of these assessments measure soft skills. Whether with a formal assessment or feedback from an instructor, assessing your soft skills is the first step to knowing how to build them.

Skills assessments can help you maximize your skill-building because you will know how to best determine where to spend your time and energy so you will not be trying to build skills you already have, but will be targeting your weak areas that need the most help.

Teaching Soft Skills

One of the best ways to teach soft skills is to use examples and situations that employees are likely to face. Seeing these situations play out in commonly ineffective ways and then compared with more effective ones that make use of soft skills will show the benefits of having good soft skills in the workplace as well as showing what effective soft skills look like in practical, hands-on ways.

Role-play is extremely effective in practicing soft skills and gives students a way to try out different behaviors without actually having to put workplace relationships and circumstances to the test right away. By role-playing under the close supervision of the instructor, students can learn what works and what doesn’t work as well before they get into a workplace situation where those soft skills are needed (or at least before the next time).

For information on training that teaches soft skills contact Christa Sterling at 860-832-2277 or csterling@ccsu.edu.