According to a recent report into the value of professional qualifications from the team at CoursesOnline, approximately one-third (33%) of British professionals do not believe that studying for professional qualifications within their respective industries is worth the effort. Meanwhile, two-thirds (67%) believed that putting in such time and effort to gain these qualifications is a worthy endeavour.

The surprising fact that a third of the 4000 professionals surveyed feel otherwise raises questions as to what can be done to make the process of obtaining qualifications more palatable to those studying.

In terms of employment sectors, the sectors that felt that the qualifications were most worthwhile were as follows:

  1. Social Work – 90% of respondents felt that professional qualifications were worth the effort
  2. Teaching & Education – 87% of respondents felt that professional qualifications were worth the effort
  3. Law – 85% of respondents felt that professional qualifications were worth the effort

On the other hand, the industries that felt the qualifications were least worth it were:

  1. Energy & Utilities – 63% of respondents felt that professional qualifications were not worth the effort.
  2. Creative Arts & Design – 62% of respondents felt that professional qualifications were not worth the effort.
  3. Recruitment & HR – 60% of respondents felt that professional qualifications were not worth the effort.

Relevancy is key

Sarah-Jane McQueen, General Manager of CoursesOnline explained that the results demonstrated that “the learning material provided to see learners through the qualification process can’t afford to be generic – those studying need real-world examples as to how what they learn is applicable to their day-to-day work”. 

Answers to the question “What is your preferred source of learning for knowledge that is valuable to your job?” also demonstrates the importance of relevancy in training. The most popular reply with 36% of respondents selecting it, was on-the-job learning, highlighting again the popularity of learning approaches that are tailored to the specific needs of those looking to learn.

Transitioning from studying to the workplace

Two-thirds of respondents argued in favour of the qualifications process, showing that there is still significant support for the current qualification options on offer.

Looking at one answer in particular, Kacie a trainee nurse from North London studied for an “Access to HE Diploma Health” with the Open Study College and found what she learned to be a “tremendous help”, with the assignments that made up her qualification “forming the basis of tasks and papers I’m working on now”. In Kacie’s case, her studying flowed smoothly into her career in the medical field, and in her opinion “makes me a more attractive candidate to anyone hiring”.

Another answer by Annie, who works as a Digital Marketing Executive for the agency Imaginarie, based in Derbyshire showed similar sentiments. She already had work experience in sales, graphic design, and content creation before she landed her current role, which is when she undertook a number of qualifications to familiarise herself with Google Analytics. 

Annie went on to highlight how her time studying provided her more than just her degree in textiles as this is “something that not every industry is looking for”, in her own words. This is backed up by the CoursesOnline report as it uncovered that 82% of respondents believed that their qualifications (or lack of) led to them being accepted or being rejected from a role that they had their eye on. 

She elaborates “as a creative individual, I value physical and interactive learning that goes beyond simply memorising facts and statistics which we inevitably forget after we sit our exams”. Once again, we can see a point of view that emphasises the need for qualifications that are delivered in a way that engages with learners and really hones in on how what they are studying can be applied to their regular tasks.

What makes for an engaging qualification?

Evidently, professional qualifications still offer immense value in many cases and are highly valued by many learners. But how can providers of qualifications make their offerings more in line with what their learners want? In a paper published in 2019 by researchers from the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the five factors needed for an effective learning course or qualification are:

  1. Teachers make the purpose and intentions of the course explicit and clear and outline how the course fits into the students’ learning journey;
  2. The course material connects students in relevant and authentic ways to the knowledge, skills, and capabilities the course requires of them – they could relate to the content;
  3. The course material includes multimedia elements and not just text, but a range and variety of materials;
  4. Students are expected to create content, both on their own and through interaction with others; and
  5. Students are asked to reflect on their learning.

Using the above factors, qualification providers have a reference point for how they can win back those who weren’t overly impressed by their studies in the past. Whilst each industry and sector will have its own unique aspects to consider, these factors will come in universally handy. 

For those considering studying for qualifications, the key thing to remember is to really do your research before getting your studies underway, to ensure that you select an option that’s really relevant for your needs and is delivered via methods that you can properly engage with.