Earn-Learn Programs: Minimizing the Skills Gap

Published by Kathleen Houlihan on

In my 20+ years of experience working with workforce development and education, I’ve seen the use of work-learn solutions as the most effective model in reducing the skills gap. The outcomes far exceed the investment for the company, the mentee, the mentor, and the community.

Businesses and educators often look for someone to blame for the skills gap. Each entity wants to blame the other group instead of working together to solve the issue. Our philosophy at Dream2Career has always been don’t blame, collaborate! When business and education work together, like with internships or apprenticeships, both sides experience significant benefits.

When businesses spend a small amount of time and resources developing learn-earn programs, they get customized training that fits their specific needs it boosts company morale and increases employee retention.  When seasoned workers have the opportunity to teach another person about their job, they experience a greater sense of responsibility and importance to the company. This sense of achievement also helps to reduce stress and creates a sense of belonging.  The apprenticeship model has a net positive effect on the company culture and ultimately the bottom line.

Students also gain from the work-learn model because it so neatly helps students match the classroom lessons to related concepts they learned “on-the-job”. Now that math problem has context, which increases comprehension and interest in math. It also helps give student a sense of hope about their future and lets them discover a pathway forward.

I like to describe our current workforce system by giving students the opportunity to understand their personality using HIF Logic and then matching who they are to the work-learn onramp experiences that inspire and delight so they can see a future that is bright. It makes so much more sense to give students access to career pathways that match their interests and their aspirational goals so they can succeed in learning and in life. Workforce-related learning give students the opportunity to see the outcome and how they fit into the structure. By creating this work-learn connection, students have the opportunity to find a successful and rewarding career that they love.

If you would like to discuss internships, apprenticeships, or other educational reimbursement solutions that inspire and delight, contact Dream2Career.

About the Author:

Kathleen Houlihan, CEO of Dream2Career, is on a mission to help students and displaced workers find onramps to their dream careers. Kathy taught full-time at the university level for over 6 years and continues to teach as an adjunct while consulting for businesses and educational providers. She’s serves on several workforce development groups including the T3 Innovation Network and Midwest Credential Transparency Alliance and has a Ph.D. in Organizational Management, an MBA, and B.A. in Psychology.


Kathleen Houlihan

Kathleen Houlihan is a leader in workforce innovation and she is the Founder of an agency that reimagines talent acquisition and optimizes the system for candidates and employers. Her company, Dream2Career, provides human-centric ROI solutions that filter-in candidates who exceed expectations in the workplace.

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