By Thina Bhengu
Short courses continue to gain popularity with career-minded individuals seeking to boost their prospects, as well as with those who want to study but are not able to do so full time, an education expert says.
“In our tough economic climate, employers – from small startups to major corporations – want to be sure that people are equipped to carry out the roles they need performed. Sometimes this requires a specific qualification but often, particularly after graduation or once a person is already working, a short course that is recent, relevant and specific is a far better indicator that the person has current skills than a qualification achieved years ago,” says Peter Kriel, General Manager of The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.
A short course normally takes anything between 8 hours for a workshop to a few months to complete. The time varies, but what is normally needed is between 8 and 120 hours of commitment from the person – although some are considerably longer. Today, many short courses are offered online, but there remains an ongoing interest in those that are presented face-to-face in groups, as it is hard to match the interaction, collaboration and networking achieved in this way, says Kriel.
He says that in a recent review of the short courses that continue to attract enrolments on a face-to-face basis, The IIE’s key providers of short courses, Vega School and The Business School at Varsity College, confirmed that most students enrolled with the aim to ensure their skills were up-to-date and immediately applicable in the workplace, as it improved their career prospects.
“There is a direct correlation between the demand for short courses and the corporate world demand on staff to quickly take up a new role or responsibility. This is where short courses come into their own, as they give ambitious people what they need when they need it and in an immediately implementable way,” says Kriel.
He says the most popular short courses at the moment are:
“Short courses in business management remain very popular with those individuals who are progressing up the ladder at work and feel the need for a sound and quick exposure to key functional areas of responsibility for managers. Many may go on to do more formal education or already have a foundation that they are consolidating, but we see a strong correlation between workplace opportunities and enrolment in this short course,” says Kriel.
“In a tough economic environment, many existing managers and others recognise the potential that an ability to analyse and solve marketing challenges gives to achieving strategic advantage for business and for themselves. Small business owners understand the need to market effectively, but do not always know how. Finally, those with a sales background find that a foundation in marketing is an effective way to broaden their value to employers and enhance their earnings,” says Kriel.
Given the complexity of virtually all environments, project management methodology continues to gain traction as a core competency for those who want to help move a company forward effectively and efficiently. There is broad recognition these days that project management is a skill set that can be taught and, if applied well, can result in success in difficult situations.
“As a result, we are not surprised that this course, which gives core skills to those who are required to plan and complete projects in time and on budget continues to be one of the most popular,” Kriel notes.
SUPPLY CHAIN & LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT
Similarly, more and more managers understand that logistics and supply chains can make or break a growing business and thus the demand for training in this core function continues to grow, Kriel says.
BRAND MANAGEMENT IN A DIGITAL WORLD
“We are equally not at all surprised”, he says, “that several of our short courses that embrace technology for improved effectiveness are experiencing a surge in enrolments. These include short courses in Digital Brand Strategy, Desktop Publishing and Design, Web Design, Copywriting for Brands, Gamification in Brand Building and Strategic Brand Leadership. Companies that do not embrace these opportunities find their growth stalled and more and more people in small, medium and large businesses want the skills to manage their own brands in a digital world.”
Kriel says there is no doubt that short courses are now very much focused on career progression and new skills, and that very few people have the personal resources or can get funded by their employers for ‘vanity courses’ just focused on personal growth. This is because of the state of the economy, but also because of the rapidly changing demands of the world of work.
“Boosting your career, or getting a foot in the door, doesn’t always require full-time study over several years,” says Kriel.
“Employers reward staff and seek new candidates who can demonstrate that they have achieved a solid grounding in a specific niche field, and that they are able to perform specific duties from the word go. Short courses are therefore a fantastic option for those people who need to upskill or wide-skill within a limited time, whose time for studies is limited, or who need to demonstrate that they can meet a business need right away.”