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Skills Certification

Educational reform will continue to be on the front burner in 2017. The number of business appointees within the Trump administration foreshadows the educational initiatives at the local, national, and international levels that will be driven by market-based considerations. A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that the college enrollment rate is down again for the fifth year straight. The New Year will continue to challenge education administrators to justify escalating tuition as a direct pathway to gainful employment and improved quality of life.

So what trends and predictions for 2017 will lead corporate learning centers and educational institutions to be more competitive and market-driven for their survival and perpetuity?

1. Greater Demand for Soft Skills. A survey of over 750 employers conducted as a part of the efforts of the National Soft Skills Consortium led by Amanda Opperman, Senior Institutional Effectiveness Specialist at Wonderlic found (PR Web, 2016): 

  • While 97% of respondents agreed that soft skills impact job performance, only 31% reported that job candidates have satisfactory soft skills. 
  • Despite that gap, only 31% of respondents stated they offer soft skills development to their employees. 
  • 90% of respondents stated they see value in soft skills training as a way to develop and evaluate employees, yet only 51% of respondents reported that they provide their employees with a clear understanding of the type of soft skills they value most.

Prediction: Corporate learning centers and college career services will improve their professional development efforts to stave off financial downturns. Corporations and colleges will engage in more collaborative initiatives to serve as feeder systems for each other. College career services will serve as “Finishing Schools” for corporate managers by providing the specific soft skills needed by corporations. Otherwise, corporate learning centers will become corporate colleges where students are offered education reflecting that company’s needs and guaranteed employment within that company upon graduation.

2. Upsurge in Critical Thinking and Thought Leadership Education. In November 2016, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called “Critical Reasoning across the Disciplines.” The open online course is designed to provide incoming undergraduate students a foundation in critical thinking skills and prepare them for a successful approach to their college coursework. The six-week, self-paced course, which is offered on, helps high school students learn more about what critical reasoning looks like, how it applies to various disciplines and how they will use and develop critical reasoning skills as undergraduate students (UNC-Chapel Hill, 2016).

Prediction: Although many universities and corporate learning centers will roll out their versions of critical thinking models to facilitate student and employee “soft skills” development, programs that use critical thinking methods to create intellectual property will be more successful, and these methods will demonstrate proof of a positive return on participant investment. Additionally, corporate learning centers and colleges will offer more certification programs to meet market needs, reduce tuition, and accelerate workforce readiness.

3. Increased Charter and School Voucher Opportunities for Academically Gifted Students. Sauls (2016) reported that President-Elect Donald Trump is in favor of school vouchers and charter schools. Mr. Trump rolled out the banner element in his education plan — the $20 billion program to promote “school choice.” Along with the federal money, States also would be encouraged to kick dollars into a pool so that low-income children could select their schools, including private and charter schools (Sauls, 2016, para. 12).

Prediction: President-Elect Trump has few options that he will pursue in education reform. Trump will create competitive educational opportunities to students that are academically gifted. Trump’s campaign pledge for helping disadvantaged students will come in the form of school vouchers, charter schools, and vocational training. Another option is to have academically disadvantaged students serve in the military to gain their work skills. The scope of President-Elect Trump’s thinking is that opportunities should be competitive and given to the most able students, while alternative opportunities given to less gifted students. The Department of Education may see some drastic changes as Trump focuses on promoting State-centric educational initiatives backed by the Department of Education to facilitate market-driven education for students.    

4. Expansion of Blended Education. The recent closure of for-profit colleges such as Corinthian, ITT, and Sanford Brown, just to name a few, is ushering in a greater opportunity for traditional schools to expand their online education offerings. As mentioned earlier, colleges are experiencing declining enrollment, but traditional education may be able to gain an advantage by including certification and short-term vocational licenses to fill needed positions.

Prediction: For-profit colleges that remain operational are going to have to raise their student acceptance standards, as well as market better to hiring companies for student placement. As these schools right size their business models, they will have to align their interests with companies through bona fide partnerships or allow themselves to be bought out by companies looking to expand their corporate learning centers. The educational winners in 2017 will balance tuition costs with market relevancy, and job placement.

5. Improved Career Advice for Students: High school administrators and college recruiters are effective at getting students into college, but ineffective at directing students towards bountiful careers. According to a new Gallup-Purdue Index, only about half of college graduates visited their on campus career services office, and alarmingly few found it very helpful (Deruy, 2016, para.2).

Deruy pointed out that the Gallup-Purdue Index survey reported that…First-generation students (whose parents did not go to college) and transfer students were less likely than their peers to say they’d used career-services offices. Just 49 percent of first-generation students said they visited their office at least once, compared to 55 percent of non-first-generation students. The usage rate for transfer students was even lower at 44 percent (Deruy, 2016, para. 6).

Prediction: As a competitive workforce increases, college career services will have to market its benefits to high school counselors. This is one breakthrough way of students having an ally once they enter college. However, school counselors (high school and college) will have to get more in depth about growth industries and market trends. Half-answers and pro forma responses to questions needing critical analysis will not be sufficient. Career advisors will have to possess practical and anecdotal experiences about the information they convey to students.

The year 2017 will see a change in how corporate and traditional education do business, and “business” should be underscored. Soft skills and market-driven education will be on top of the agenda. For those looking for education reform, this type of reform will not only change how and what students learn, but how corporate managers and educators align mutual interests.

Edward Brown, M.S., helps students become thought leaders for career success at the American Academy of Advanced Thinking (AAAT).


Deruy, E. (2016, Dec. 15). Colleges Really Need to Rethink the Career Advice They Deliver. The Atlantic. Retrieved from: 

PR Web (2016, August 24). New Survey of Over 750 Employers Reveals Major Need for Soft Skills Training. Benzinga. Retrieved from: 

Saul, Stephanie (2016, Nov. 21). Where Donald Trump Stands on School Choice, Student Debt, and Common Core. The New York Times. Retrieved from: 

UNC-Chapel Hill (2016, November 18). University launches new online critical reasoning course. UNC-Chapel Hill News. Retrieved from: