Capturing the Untapped Market: Skeptical Enrollees

Career Outcomes: The Key to Effective Enrollment Marketing is a six-part blog series that explores how postsecondary institutions can combat declining enrollments by appealing to untapped market segments. New to the series? Find Part 1 here.

Over one-third of all adults have taken work-related classes or training in the last 12 months. With nearly 250 million adults in the United States, that means there are 89 million adults actively pursuing education opportunities to advance their careers. That’s a huge pool of potential students – more than five times the number of students currently enrolled in postsecondary institutions.

However, these adult learners have many options to choose from, including employer training, online courses, and other short-term programs. How can you get more working learners to enroll in your institution’s postsecondary programs for their work-related learning needs?

In a recent report, EAB identified one type of working learner that represents a significant growth opportunity for higher education: the skeptical enrollee. As described by EAB, the skeptical enrollee is a prospective student who already has a particular program in mind but needs to see the tangible career benefit before applying to a postsecondary institution. In other words, they want to know there will be a solid return on their investment.

Many nontraditional institutions, such as boot camps and online providers, focus their marketing on career benefits, but all too often traditional institutions do not. To overcome the skeptical enrollee’s hesitation and successfully compete with nontraditional providers, your institution needs to clearly illustrate how each of its programs directly connects to real career outcomes.

How to Create Program-to-Career Outcomes Alignments for Working Learners

The first step is mapping how existing programs connect to careers using this step-by-step guide, which has been adapted from EAB’s Competing on Student Outcomes to Attract Today’s Career Changer report.

To complete these steps, you will need labor market data. You can use a free resource, such as O*NET, but note that this data relies on heavily generalized categories and is often outdated by several years. For data that is more detailed and more timely, turn to Burning Glass Technologies for the world’s largest and most sophisticated jobs and talent database.

Step 1: Identify skills students will learn in the program, as well as relevant career outcomes.

  • Consult with the program’s faculty and staff to establish a list of skills, knowledge, and abilities that students will acquire as a result of the program. Also start brainstorming jobs that they could expect to get after graduation.
  • Ask current students and alumni which skills, knowledge, and abilities they have gained from the program. In addition, ask what career outcomes they have achieved, or expect to achieve, as a result of graduating from the program.

Step 2: Match skills, knowledge, and abilities to careers.

  • In your labor market data source, look for a way to search for jobs by skill, knowledge, or ability (this may be an advanced search function).
  • For each skill on your list from Step 1, search for and create a list of relevant occupations that require that skill. Repeat this process for the program’s list of knowledge as well as abilities.

Step 3: Compare lists to identify relevant, realistic career paths.

  • Compare all the career lists you have generated – from Steps 1 and 2 – to identify recurring career paths. Look for careers that appear in all or most lists; careers that appear on only one list may have a weak relation to your program and may not be realistic outcomes.
  • Record these connections, mapping each path from (1) program to (2) learned skills, abilities, and knowledge to (3) a specific career. Use a table like the one below for each program.

Step 4: Collect labor market data for each career path.

  • Once you have a list of relevant, realistic career outcomes, return to your labor market data source to gather more information about those careers.
  • In particular, try to record:
    • Current employment (how many individuals are currently employed in this career)
    • Projected growth (is this a growing or contracting career path)
    • Projected job openings (how many new positions will be created in the next 10 years)
    • Median wages (how much would an employee typically earn, either as an hourly wage or as a yearly salary)
Skills, abilities, & knowledge learned in programRelevant career pathO*NET occupational codeO*NET occupational titleSample job titlesEmployment (2016)Projected growth (2016–2026)Projected job openings (2016–2026)Median wages (2017)

A Faster Process with Better Results for Institutions and Working Learners

By completing this process, your institution will be able to clearly show skeptical enrollees how a program creates tangible benefits (learned skills, abilities, and knowledge) that lead to real-world career outcomes. Consider making this information publicly available on your institution’s website so potential students (and their employers, who may be financially contributing to their continuing education) can easily access this data as they review your programs.

If the above process feels overwhelming because you lack the staff/resources or if you do not have the data needed to create high-quality alignments, clear career outcomes for all your programs are still within reach. Career Insight by Burning Glass Technologies is an easy-to-use solution that streamlines the process of creating program-to-career outcome alignments by eliminating the need to manually compile career data.

In addition to radically reducing the time it takes to link programs to career outcomes, Career Insight ensures alignments are built around more accurate, more detailed data. This is because Burning Glass Technologies uses real-time labor market information to understand the skills associated with specific jobs rather than broad occupational categories, as well as how employer demand for skills may vary from place to place for the same position. Furthermore, real-time data means Career Insight alignments are automatically updated as the labor market changes so staff don’t have to spend hours struggling to maintain massive spreadsheets or dozens of separate career outcome tables.

Career Insight also improves the prospective student experience. Through an interactive Career Insight application on your institution’s website, working learners – and all other potential students – can explore each program-to-career pathway, including potential job titles, salaries, and projected openings. Seeing this real-world data, tailored by program, location, and specific career goal, can be the compelling proof skeptical enrollees need to overcome their hesitation and enroll.

How does Career Insight work? Schedule your personal demo today.

However, skeptical enrollees aren’t the only learners who are considering education to advance their careers yet are hesitant to enroll. In our next post, we’ll examine their close relative, the aspiring career changer. Get a sneak peek into the upcoming blog posts in this series.

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