General Electric has committed to interviewing any Massachusetts resident who completes the MITx MicroMasters program in supply chain management. The announcement was made by GE Global Learning Leader Paul Fama as part of Governor Charlie Baker’s “Convening for Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning,” which was held at MIT last month.
“These courses have been so well developed that it’s time we recognized them in a real way,” Fama said at the conference. Fama added that employers benefit by incorporating MicroMasters programs into their worker training strategies and said companies should embrace digital learning.
MITx MicroMasters is a professional and academic credential available digitally to online learners worldwide. It provides a flexible and affordable alternative to the traditional higher education model, which has trouble meeting the needs of many busy people. One of the primary advantages of digital learning is that it provides students with the ability to work at their own pace and on their own schedules. By giving learners control over where and when they study, MicroMasters and other edX-based programs enable people who are tied down by family, work, and other obligations to create room for educational opportunities without sacrificing other important aspects of their lives.
Employers recognize that digital learning can make high-quality education available to workers in instances where traditional education cannot. By encouraging employees and prospects to utilize online learning resources, corporations hope to see an increase in applications from people who have the training employers need to continue growing and innovating in Massachusetts.
Mia Radic, a supply chain project manager at Akamai, represents the type of ambitious, self-driven learner drawn to the edX platform. She completed the MITx MicroMasters credential in supply chain management this year.
“The courses immediately answered a lot of the questions I had at work and gave me the background and tools that I could use immediately, the next day,” she said. “If I learned something in the evening that I could connect to what I was working on, the next day I could find a way to apply it. Each new course I took ended up being more useful and applicable than the last.”
As a direct result of completing the MicroMasters program, Radic was recruited to a new position at Akamai, which she described as her “dream job.”
MIT President L. Rafael Reif said there is a gap between tech jobs and people to fill them.
“Many CEOs across many different sectors tell me, ‘I'm laying off hundreds of people because their jobs have disappeared, and I don't need their skills. And I have hundreds of job openings that I'm unable to fill because I can't find people with the right training and skills,’” he said.
The Baker adminstration reports that there are 200,000 open jobs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “At the same time, there are so many people out there struggling to find an opportunity for meaningful work that pays. It’s a very tough spot to be in, and it’s one we ought to be able to solve,” Baker said.
MIT introduced its MicroMasters in supply chain management in October 2015, and learners have embraced the education model. In just two years, edX was hosting 40 MicroMasters programs created by 25 leading universities. Both Reif and Baker said closing the skills gap is a prerequisite to solving the problem of unfilled jobs and that digital learning initiatives, such as the MicroMasters programs, are the key to building successful competency-based pathways.
Other initiatives announced at the convening include Microsoft committing to providing 500 Massachusetts residents with a certificate in any Microsoft online course offered on edX.org. On the state policy level, a new commission on digital innovation and lifelong learning will be established. The is likely to be organized through the Commonwealth Corporation, which works with industry, education, and workforce organizations, to provide skills training and education programs that correspond to unmet job opportunities.
Baker said the goal of the commission is to identify strategic initiatives that “support and encourage and invest in programming ... so that we can be, in fact, the leader we should be in digital innovation and lifelong learning.”