Nevada’s Workforce Finds a Foothold in Competency-Based Education

If you live in Nevada, but lack some form of postsecondary education, you may struggle to find good work in the Silver State. Yet education alone, without being combined with relevant work experience, won’t get you much further.  

That’s because according to Nevada’s economic officials, those who have work-based learning opportunities during their education will edge out those who compete for jobs with merely a diploma in hand.

Last year, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation for a New Nevada (OWINN) partnered with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) to meet with Nevada’s top industry representatives in business, education, and labor.

State officials learned sector-specific workforce needs and challenges for Nevada’s economic future. A report from the conference shows the projected growth in occupations across eight industries by 2024. In addition to a college degree, most of the jobs will require proficiency in “soft” and “technical” skills.

“Skills are the new name of the game for young or seasoned individuals who want to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s labor markets,” the report says. “Though it is rare for an employee to enter a workplace with every job function skill needed to succeed on day one, the absence of certain skills are a sure way to prevent an individual with even the most advanced job function skill to succeed.”

The New Success Model

Competency-based education, also known as proficiency-based, performance-based, mastery-based education, is a skill-driven learning model focused on each individual’s own ability to learn something rather than on a prescribed time to learn it.

In other words, students build on the competencies they already have to efficiently progress through course expectations.
Also, in some instances, students demonstrate their competencies in work-related situations such as student teaching, business simulations or clinical trials in nursing.

If students fail to meet expected learning standards, they typically receive additional instruction, practice time and academic support to help them achieve proficiency or meet the expected standards. A “competency-based diploma” is awarded to students only when they meet expected learning standards.

This student-centric approach also helps teachers, as it enables them to identify which students need more time to master fundamental concepts.

CBE on Fire

WGU Nevada, a leading provider of CBE education, has grown more than 20 percent over the past five years, with growth in cumulative graduates surging past 40 percent last year.

Here’s what students take away:

  • Lessons customized to their needs, skills and interest.
  • More one-on-one time with teachers.
  • Self-paced schedules to complete course work.
    Flexibility over where, when, what and how they learn.

They master their trade, rather than just memorize material. Consequently, 87 percent of WGU graduates are employed in their degree field according to a Harris Poll Online, and they earn 96 percent more than graduates nationally.
Here’s what employers have with WGU graduates:
According to a 2016 Harris Poll survey, 94 percent of 301 employers said their WGU-educated employees exceeded their expectations. Further, engagement at work among WGU alumni is 15 percent higher than the national average.

“Institutions must move from a model of ‘time served’ to a model of ‘stuff learned,’” says Friedman. “Because increasingly the world does not care what you know. The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do.”

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