With new offerings, Norwich Pro™ aims to help workers pivot during coronavirus pandemic and afterward

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked layoffs, furloughs and lots of soul searching for the American workforce. National studies suggest up to one-fifth of Americans are considering taking courses to help themselves find new jobs or maybe change careers. To aid the transition, Norwich Pro℠, under new director Dan Daoust, is diversifying its offerings to ease skill stacking and path shifting.

The transitioning may be seismic. The U.S. Labor Department reported Oct. 1 that 2.4 million Americans had hit its benchmark for long-term unemployment, being out of work for 27 weeks or more. The department further said nearly 5 million are nearing that threshold. Data suggest that jobless spells are harder to end the longer they last. 

The Brookings Institution has reported, citing a collection of national surveys, including one by Rutgers University, that long-term unemployed have a 20 percent to 40 percent lower probability of being employed one to two years in the future than do the short-term unemployed. 

A Strada Education Network COVID-19 Work and Education Survey showed that about one-fifth of U.S. adults plan to enroll in an education program within the next six months.

As HR Drive reported Tuesday, the Chicago-based global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that in the second quarter, 19.57% of job seekers changed industries as they gained new positions, an increase from 15% in the first quarter.

To mitigate the risk, and return to work faster, research suggests more Americans will pursue more learning. A Strada Education Network COVID-19 Work and Education Survey showed that about one-fifth of U.S. adults plan to enroll in an education program within the next six months. The data came from more than 16,000 responses by American adults 18 and older from March 25 to Aug. 20.

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Global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas found that in the second quarter, 19.57% of job seekers changed industries as they gained new positions. (Photo by Norwich University Photography.)

Furthermore, the survey, highlighted this month by Inside HigherEd, found that 35 percent of survey respondents said they’re more interested in nondegree skills training (62 percent) than pursuing a college degree (38 percent).

Norwich Pro, the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies’ professional development arm, launched in 2019 and offers online certificates including military history, project management, corporate compliance, supply chain, leadership and strategic communications. Those programs included 16-week, four-course programs yielding certifications and eight continuing education units. 

This fall, though, Norwich Pro is diversifying, led by Daoust, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who became director in June. 

New offerings

Two offerings launched in September:

— Microcertifications: One-week minicourses focused on a single subject, offering a certificate of attendance and 0.5 continuing education units. 

— Course certifications: Four-week self-paced courses providing more in-depth study of a subject area, offering certificates of completion and 2 continuing education units. 

One launched in October:

— Workforce development subscription courses: Offerings will focus on workforce professional development for small and midsized enterprise. Development courses will be grouped by areas of concentration and will focus on business essentials for everyone from new joiners to middle managers. Advanced management modules will focus on management for leaders from junior directors to executive managers.

RELATED: Norwich Pro presents online symposium “Redefining Workforce Development in a Challenging Business Reality”

The subscription courses are, and will be, designed for both individuals and organizations. Daoust said Norwich Pro could, if contracted, develop customized subscription courses for public or private sector organizations to teach specific skills in ways “big-box” networks like Coursera, Udemy and EdX can’t.

Citing the Strada Education Network survey, Daoust said potentially field-changing workers across education levels said that if they had $5,000 to invest in future education or training, they’d prefer online programs (46 percent) or work-based ones (23 percent) to in-person programs (30 percent). 

“All of those point to what Norwich Pro’s core business is,” Daoust said.

Daoust said the new offerings fit with Norwich Pro’s goals to develop custom offerings for the public and private sectors; focusing on corporate solutions; federal, state and local governments; and aerospace and defense. 

Devising in Denver

Norwich Pro hopes to establish Norwich’s new Denver office as a Western region Center of Innovation that will include Centers of Expertise portals (for leadership, cyber, energy resiliency, artificial intelligence, space), Norwich representative offices (Norwich University Applied Research Institutes) and outreach to regional partners and consortiums. 

Daoust, who spent 22 years with U.S. Army Special Forces, particularly in Afghanistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council nations ­— Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain — said the microcertifications allow sampling and experimenting.

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Norwich Pro hopes to establish the new Denver office as a Western region Center of Innovation. (Photo by Norwich University Photography.)

Students can see what courses they like; a microcertification in project management may prompt an advance to the full certification (the continuing education units will transfer). The university can try teaching job market-serving subjects that might lack the content for a broader course. Microcertification may come from Norwich faculty ideas or third-party partners’ ideas, and may start as webinars to gauge audience interest, he said.

Sometimes, as with the recent “The Arctic Circle’s Cold War” session, an offshoot of the Military Writers’ Symposium, microcertificates let Norwich Pro offer concentrated looks at timely topics in a rich, interactive online experience, Daoust said.

“You’ve got to keep the content fresh and you’ve got to be engaging,” he said. “Otherwise, the students aren’t going to do (the courses).”

With the economy in flux, job seekers will probably need the intellectual and professional adaptability Norwich Pro builds. London Business School professor Herminia Ibarra wrote in the Harvard Business Review that workers will need to stack skills and stay flexible. 

“When you don’t know what the future will bring, or when the path you thought you were on takes an unexpected turn, it makes sense to pursue a diverse portfolio of options rather than just sticking single-mindedly to one,” she wrote. “Career change is never a perfectly linear process. It’s a necessarily messy journey of exploration — and to do it right, you have to experiment with, test, and learn about a range of possible selves.”

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Norwich University Perspectives Project: COVID-19

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