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In-Demand Classes for the Workforce in 2021 and Beyond

Brian Rahill

August 11, 2021

Even if workforce training is your primary focus, the latest labor news might seem confusing. That’s because we’ve entered new territory. The pandemic disrupted many of the patterns we’ve come to expect from the labor market and accelerated an evolution that would normally have taken decades. Business and industry have increased their reliance on technology, shifted priorities, and placed new emphasis on soft skills in the workplace.

For administrators of workforce training programs, making sense of the headlines is a vital task. We’re here to help. We’ve sifted through the latest workforce news to find the workforce training classes and skills that are in demand for 2021 and beyond. Offering the following classes can help you grow enrollment and empower students to meet personal and professional goals.

Demand for Quick Credentials is Growing

In this season of change, both students and employers seem to be warming to the idea of alternative pathways for learning. In a Strada survey, about 62 percent of students said they would choose skills training or a non-degree credential if they enrolled in an education option sometime in the next six months. This includes online classes, of course, but also certifications, micro-credentials, and boot camps that help students quickly upskill or reskill. 

The pandemic likely caused this shift. Suddenly, learners are placing a greater emphasis on relevance and value over prestige or learning for its own sake. Portability is also important to them. Workers know they’re unlikely to stay in the same job for decades the way their great-grandparents did. They’re looking for skills that can be applied to a range of positions and industries.

While overall demand for short-term credentials is growing, the pandemic has accelerated change in some areas more than others. We’ve identified four key areas where demand is particularly strong. If you’re not already offering classes in these areas, now is the time to start. 

1. Technology and Digital Literacy Courses

You’ve probably seen the commercials from Google advertising their short-term, skills-based credential program. They’re not the only ones. Other industry leaders, including IBM, Facebook, Salesforce, and Microsoft have joined the effort to train more people in technology and digital literacy. 

Community colleges and adult ed programs also have a role to play. These days, pretty much everyone needs digital literacy to do their jobs. Classes in programming and analytics are in demand among learners pursuing a career in technology. At the same time, students in fields outside the tech industry are looking for more focused classes to build skills around essential software, cybersecurity basics, cloud computing, and other technology topics. Offering courses and certificates in these subjects may help attract students to your programs.

Most in-demand technology and digital literacy courses: 

  • Cybersecurity basics
  • Programming
  • Data analytics

2. Classes that Build Soft Skills

Soft skills represent a unique opportunity for community colleges and adult education programs. Employers are always looking for employees with communication, problem-solving, resiliency, and other soft skills. Yet competency in these areas is notoriously difficult to prove. Employers sometimes assume that students with a bachelor’s degree have soft skills, but that isn’t always the case. 

Focused training in soft skills, with certificates awarded at the end, can help students prove their competency in these harder-to-measure abilities. If you don’t already offer courses in problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, resilience, or communication, now is the time to start. If you do offer these courses, consider how you can update them to reflect the real-world scenarios students are likely to face post-pandemic.

Most in-demand classes that build soft skills:

  • Problem-solving techniques
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Building resiliency

3. Training for Healthcare Support Roles

Demand for qualified healthcare workers is projected to grow much faster than the average for other occupations. An aging population means we need more doctors and nurses, but also more professionals in essential healthcare support roles.

While many jobs in this industry require extensive credentialing, there are plenty of entry-level roles going unfilled because of a lack of trained workers. Adult learners can quickly train for many of these roles by earning a postsecondary certificate. For example, demand for home health aides is projected to grow 34%, dramatically faster than the national average for all occupations. Adult education programs can help meet the need by offering basic training or certification in this role.

Some healthcare support training programs, like those training licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses, must be state-approved. But your program can offer training in several high-demand areas without additional accreditation.

Most in-demand training for healthcare support roles: 

  • Training for home health aids
  • Massage therapy certification
  • Medical billing and coding

4. Skilled Trade Certifications

The lack of workers in skilled trades isn’t news. It’s a problem the industry has been struggling with for decades. Yet, over the last few months, the situation seems to be getting worse. Older, more experienced workers are aging out, and there just aren’t enough skilled tradespeople to take their place. 

In this case, the issue is probably not the availability of training programs. Instead, it’s a problem of perception. Learners may not realize that salaries in these positions can be competitive with those earned in technology or medicine. For example, while median pay for plumbers hovers around $55,000 a year, the highest-paid workers in this industry make more than $98,000. Yet some learners may fail to even consider these roles because of outdated perceptions of the industry.

Mixed messages may also play a role. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for roofers is growing at 2%, which is slower than the national average. Yet a conversation with anyone in the industry reveals that finding reliable help is a real challenge, especially in rural areas. At the same time, PeopleReady identified multiple helper- and apprentice-level roles where demand has increased and jobs remain unfilled.

Community colleges and adult ed programs can correct this misconception and revitalize their skilled trades training programs by creating marketing campaigns centered around the salary and growth potential in these roles. 

Most in-demand skilled trades:

  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers

Offer In-Demand Classes Your Workforce Students Want

The four in-demand training areas listed represent national averages. But learners and employers in your area may be looking for something different. The best way to gauge which classes are in demand is to ask. Remember that even online students often prefer to enroll in institutions that are close to home. So, start conversations. Attend local job fairs. Forge partnerships with local high schools, employers, and community organizations to understand the needs of your local workforce. 

Offering in-demand classes for the workforce doesn’t just help learners achieve their personal and professional goals. It also helps your organization increase enrollment.



Connect with CourseStorm. When you’re ready to start enrolling students, CourseStorm can help. Our class registration management solution supports your in-demand workforce training programs. 

Brian Rahill

Brian is a scientist-turned-education technology executive. He has founded and led technology companies for more than 20 years and uses his analytical mind and experimental approach to spur growth in small and medium businesses and start-ups. He is passionate about using technology to enhance access to lifelong learning.

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