The Rapidly Evolving Internet-Based Job Training in California

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

Just as  other education websites on the internet are rapidly evolving, there is rapid evolution in job training websites.

In her position as director of the NOVA Workforce Investment Board in Silicon Valley, Ms. Kris Stadelman sees this evolution up close. She is contacted regularly by firms, selling new variations of internet-based job placement  assistance and job training.

Most of the activity, according to Kris, is in the online job search assistance area. Hundreds of firms are emerging, offering online instruction in locating job openings, developing resumes, interviewing, and following up after the interview. Some of these firms, such as Interview Stream and  Burning Glass, have gotten a foothold with the workforce system. Others are still in start-up stage.

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 7.54.17 AMAmong job training, the field is less crowded, but adding new entrants every month. Metrix  Learning  was one of the first online training sites in the nation, started in the early 2000s by Brian Lee, an early adopter of workforce training online. Metrix  operates nationwide, and contracts with Workforce Investment Boards throughout California.

Metrix is focused on shorter-term, more just in time, training, with online classes in Microsoft Office Specialist, QuickBooks. Cisco and Six Sigma. Metrix ties its training to outside, industry recognized certifications.

In previous Fox & Hounds postings, we have discussed a number of the California-based  internet job training  websites, including Encore Career Institute, LearnUp.me, and InternBound. These and other sites have altered operations and pivoted, even in the short time since we wrote about them.

Encore Career Institute (ECI) was launched in September 2011, headed by two of California’s leading technology and entertainment entrepreneurs. Steve Poizner and Sherry Lansing, and backed by $15 million in venture capital funds. ECI was to be a fully online job training, in partnership with the UCLA Extension program.

Since its very public launch, ECI has rebranded as Empowered.com. The training came online in October 2012 and today consists of certifications in five occupational categories  identified as promising for job placement: Project Management, IT Management, Global  Sustainability, Health Care management and Patient Advocacy. Each certificate consists of 8 classes, with the expectation that the student will take 2 classes per quarter over a 4-quarter, one year period.

The training is open to all persons over 18 years of age, but according to Mr. Jarrod Agen of Empowered.com, the majority of the first enrollees are over 40 years of age, and seeking a new career. The classes, like most college online classes, have one instructor with 20-25 students. Assignments are given on a weekly basis, and students encouraged to communicate with each other online, as well as with the instructor. In addition to the training, online career counseling is offered, starting at enrollment.

As the first class has yet to complete, it is too early to evaluate job placement success of Empowered.com. The training is not inexpensive; each certification program costs roughly $8400.

When we previously wrote about Learn Up.me in February 2012, it had recently been launched by its founder, Ms. Alexis Ringwald. It was designed as an online placement and training platform, with company-specific training.

Later in 2012, LearnUp.me  did obtain initial investment of nearly $2 million from a number of the most prominent venture capital firms in the Valley. It also obtained the participation of a number of nationwide retailers, including Staples, Gap, and Safeway. However, the ability of LearnUp.me to monetize its services through employer payments remains to be proven.

Ms. Stadelman sees a main evolution the next few years in online job training coming through the Massively Open Online courses (MOOCs), such as Udacity, Coursera, and Khan Academy. So far, these sites, which offer a range of educational courses at no cost, have not entered the job training space.  They too, though are evolving rapidly, adding certifications that are tied to the work world, and developing course offerings in concert with employers.

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