As I meet experienced professionals, a very large number of them feel the need to enhance their skills, especially in the middle stages of their careers. However, it’s not easy to fulfill this need. The methods that exist today are fairly inadequate. Corporate training tends to focus very specifically on the organizational context, budgets are always stretched and the goals are suspiciously towards retention vs. development. Evaluating outside programs is a tough task since credibility is hard to establish. The marquee programs tend to be very strenuous and expensive.
On the other hand, training companies even with excellent learning curriculum find it hard to sustain. It’s so much easier to sell an MBA vs. saying I will train you in finance, marketing and strategy. A certificate gets related to an outcome and hence is easier to sell. This is similar to a soap company showing clean clothes in their ads vs. the great chemistry of their soaps. Hence training companies package themselves as certificates. You see these 3-letter words like MBA, PMP, PGP, CFA and so on.
There are attempts from the massively open online courseware (MOOC) companies like Coursera and edX, however it’s still early days and it remains to be seen how they sustain. They are exciting for the very reason that they may offer a solution to this problem.
The bottom line is that the need for education is learning but it gets sold as a certificate. This is not very different from how many other products in the retail world are sold. The problem in this model though is that education companies offering certificates forget this. Many of them take their focus away from learning completely. This problem is further compounded by government accreditations, which give a sense of “good enough” to both schools and students without having any real accountability.
Hence, in my opinion the need is for certificate offering schools to double up their focus on learning. If they make that the primary focus then both needs can automatically be met. At Sunstone Business School, we keep emphasizing the fact that our primary objective is learning. We have seen that if we are honest to this objective, byproducts such as career transitions, career growth, entrepreneurship etc. come automatically. From a government perspective, removing accreditation will also put the burden back on schools to prove themselves to the community and improve the quality of learning. Training market without certification exists in small part and will continue to but it’s hard to see it become mainstream.
Dinesh Singh is the Director, Student engagement at the Sunstone business school. Dinesh is a graduate from IIT Kanpur and MBA from Cornell University. He earlier worked with McKinsey & Co. Previously, Dinesh was a technology entrepreneur and also part of the GlobalLogic start-up team where he led several market facing activities including Marketing and Business Development.