January 20, 2022

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2021 Coursera Conference: Industry Partnerships Reflection

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By Madelyn Suennen, Industry Partnership Manager, Coursera

Coursera Conference 2021 is now complete, and we have the opportunity to reflect on what was a truly fantastic experience. I know I speak for us all when I say we are feeling excited, hopeful, and motivated to continue our shared mission of bringing world-class learning to every corner of the world. 

With visionary industry leaders coming together around a common cause, sharing their insights and experiences, it is fascinating to see how certain themes emerge. These are the leaders that will continue defining the employment landscape in the coming years, and we can consider these themes as bellwethers of what the future holds. Here are just some of the themes we’d like to highlight for you.

Industry partners can use their expertise to train and upskill people from non-traditional backgrounds, which leads to innovative job opportunities and outcomes. 

We are seeing incredible demand for entry-level skills from top brands such as Google, Facebook, Salesforce, and more on Coursera. Over 950,000 learners—many from job seekers—have enrolled in our Entry-Level Professional Certificates in the last 12 months (as of May 2021). 

Expanding access to world-class education is an essential part of improving career prospects for learners across the globe, particularly those from non-traditional backgrounds and underserved communities. We know from the work so many of our industry partners are doing that companies can leverage the power of online learning to expand opportunity and reach. One conference session, entitled “Helping Job-Seekers Succeed with Gateway Professional Certificates,” focused on how job-aligned certificate programs can create diversified talent pipelines and drive tangible career outcomes. Saurabh Sanghvi, partner at McKinsey, shared that these innovations are reducing friction and increasing accessibility in the job market.

We are specifically seeing that Professional Certificates can provide gateways into entry-level roles. Certificate programs are emerging as a viable means for job-seekers to overcome obstacles and barriers associated with qualifying factors that have historically included university degrees. In a conversation focused on how Coursera partners create Professional Certificate programs, Jesse Haines, Director of Grow with Google, highlighted Google’s focus on “high-paying, high-growth fields that do not require a 4-year college degree and where Google has real expertise.” 

Innovative organizations are partnering with Coursera to break down education barriers and increase representation in the workforce.

“We all have a unique position and the agency to drive and influence meaningful impact specifically in underrepresented communities, within our current brands, schools, businesses, and bodies of work.” 

—Ralph Jean-Noel, Program Lead for Facebook Elevate and 2021 

Speaking in a session entitled “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Online Education,” Ralph Jean-Noel spoke powerfully about our collective opportunity to create new pathways into jobs for people from underrepresented communities—opportunities that lead to meaningful career progress.  These non-traditional pathways play a central role in driving diversity and inclusion initiatives for companies, and they represent an innovative solution for both employers seeking diverse talent and entry-level learners seeking jobs.

Ralph also shared one of Facebook’s most ambitious and diversity-oriented goals: Facebook has committed that by 2023, they will reach 1 million members of the Black community and 1 million members of the Latinx and Hispanic communities in the US with free training in digital skills through the Elevate program. Coursera is proud to partner with Facebook to work towards this goal through programs such as the Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate. Widely accessible and industry-recognized certificate programs, developed by organizations like Facebook, are increasingly important onramps into growing careers and diversified talent pipelines. 

Stackable learning is the pathway to both jobs and degrees.

Our session “Leveraging Stackability to Increase Engagement and Extend Brand Reach” was focused on how organizations are developing stackable learning content to maximize learner engagement and create viable journeys for learners.

“Creating the right journey for learning is perfectly aligned with business objectives,” Ryan Keenan, Director of Product at DeepLearning.AI, said in conversation with Kheil McIntyre, Head of Industry Partnerships at Coursera. “What we’ve been working on [as an industry partner] is how to take courses, link them naturally to real-world outcomes, and help learners take the next step to apply to jobs or build their portfolio as a job candidate.” 

Collaboration of this kind between industry and academia can help learners map out their education and career roadmap in a more connected way than previously possible. Stackability is essential to this kind of approach. On Coursera, offerings such as Specializations offer a way to “bundle” related courses together to create a focused path towards skills mastery and job readiness. In this way, learners can “stack” capabilities as they grow their skill set from foundational to advanced knowledge.

The concept of stackability also applies when we think about creating pathways into degree programs. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate, for example, is ACE® approved—learners who complete the program can earn up to twelve college credits. After learning the foundations of IT support in the program, learners can transfer those credits into the University of London Bachelors of Computer Science degree program, also on Coursera. The extensibility is ongoing. After entering the workforce, learners can continue to utilize Coursera to learn job-aligned skills that increase career mobility.

These are just some of the highlights from the conference, and we hope you’re feeling the same excitement we are about all the exciting and impactful initiatives that are underway. The innovation and vision that are being put to work to ensure the creation of a more equitable and rewarding future for all is both motivating and inspiring. To all our industry partners and conference participants, we thank you. And, if you’re not yet a partner, we encourage you to consider the possibilities of what we can achieve together.

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