Automation and the booming of the service economy are posing one of the great challenges for the educational ecosystem.
Among the innovative educational schemes alternative to the classic university model, a new model has begun to attract attention among researchers for its effectiveness and innovation to provide better opportunities.
They are called on-ramps programs, a word that comes from its main characteristic of serving as safe and agile access ramps to the changing labor market.
According to a recent study by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work, entitled On-ramps to Good Jobs, nine out of 10 graduates of these type of programs have gained access to a stable and well-paid job.
"On-ramps are engines of social mobility that empower adults with a broad base of competencies with much more technical depth for developing industries," the document says.
On-ramps programs offer training in digital and human skills for working adults with primary education, but without a university degree. With a duration of two years, these programs provide a mix of human skills such as critical thinking, communication, time management with technical specialties in cybersecurity, financial services, health care or programming.
"Many on-ramps presume high placement rates —some up to 91 percent— while others are leading to substantial increases in salary, ranging from 200 to 400 percent or more," the study says.
On-ramps programs have emerged as a response to the latest revolution in the educational ecosystem, known as New U, an abbreviation for a new post-high school educational ecosystem characterized by offering alternative credentials and short flexible programs and a strong link with the labor market.
"Employer partners of on-ramps programs are beginning to recognize that through these partnerships they can begin to rethink their preference for academic degrees and build various channels to attract talent," the document adds.
The study has focused on nine out of 65 programs of this type that are available in the United States such as Job Train, JVS San Francisco, i.c. Star, and STRIVE international.
In the United States, it is estimated that there are 32 million working-age adults who are unemployed and lack skills, school credentials and links to emerging industries. The transformation panorama of employment seems uncertain: up to 47 percent of current jobs can disappear due to automation.
Despite the encouraging results of the on-ramp model, the study points out that these programs still lack growth and faster scaling. "They are new and are still in the early stages of development, with an estimated attendance of 100,000 students from a target population of 32 million adults with a two-year certificate. In contrast, Community Colleges caters to an estimated one million adults," the study points out.
For their part, employers still see a vision of these programs as an effort of goodwill, not as a good business. "On-ramps should build a better business case for themselves because they can be both," says the document.
The Strada Institute for the Future of Work points out that the challenges of this educational model are investment work among philanthropists and entrepreneurs, build an infrastructure with higher education technical centers and encourage employers to hire people with new credentials.