<p>(BPT) - There is a skills gap in the United States. Thirty-nine percent of U.S. employers report having difficulty finding staff with the appropriate skills, according to the annual Talent Shortage Survey conducted by the ManpowerGroup, a human resource consulting firm. Employers are looking for employees who possess the proper education and training, but are having trouble finding qualified candidates. If you are trying to get ahead in your career, you’ve likely realized the skills gap exists and you know the benefits a new position or promotion could mean to you and your family.</p><p>Chances are you’ve seen these opportunities before but didn’t pursue them because of the time commitment to get the education and training you need. You ask yourself, “If I go back to school and have to wait two-to-four years before seeing the benefits of my education, will the opportunities still be there?”</p><p>The good news is that you don’t have to wait for graduation day to demonstrate what you’ve learned.</p><p>Some online colleges are re-imagining higher education in ways that recognize the demands placed on people seeking to advance their careers. These programs strive to help students document achievements not just at graduation, but before then, while they are still in school. Here are just some of the ways.</p><p>* Badging. Whether you were active in Scouting or have played online video games, you’re probably aware of the system of badging. A badge or patch - physical or electronic - is awarded to recognize your specific accomplishments. The badging idea now exists in higher education as well, and some online schools have tapped into this trend, using the same principles to recognize student accomplishments. The New Hampshire-based online school, <a href="http://www.mountwashington.edu/index.aspx" rel="nofollow">Mount Washington College</a>, for example, is integrating skill, motivational and peer mentoring badges. Online colleges find students enjoy the accomplishment of a badge as they continue toward graduation, and the online platform lends itself well to this system. The program is gaining traction with employers as well. Hiring managers are finding that the badges can sometimes say more about what a student has accomplished than the typical degree.</p><p>* Skill stacking. To provide a clear way to demonstrate workplace-ready skills before graduation, leading online schools are offering students the capability to earn key industry-recognized certifications as they work toward their degree, delivering value prior to a diploma. For instance, <a href="http://www.mountwashington.edu/index.aspx" rel="nofollow">Mount Washington College</a> offers a project management certificate as well as an online marketing certified professional certificate. Students can add these certificates to their resume or LinkedIn profile in order to display immediate benefits from their education as they continue on their degree path. These certificates are an excellent way to demonstrate to current or potential employers that you have learned work-place ready skills in areas such as communications, leadership, marketing, project management or other aspects of business.</p><p>* e-Portfolio. For students who are looking for one convenient place to showcase their work to current or future employers, e-Portfolios are a valuable tool being introduced at some online schools. These electronic portfolios record any badges or work samples loaded by students. They are a great way for students to showcase their knowledge, skills and abilities in one location.</p><p>* Education on your timeline. Traditional universities are difficult for non-traditional students because of their fixed class schedules and mandatory due dates for projects. Online schools offer students a more flexible model; eliminating fixed semester schedules and giving students control over their own education. Students are able to complete their projects as quickly or slowly as their schedule allows, giving them the opportunity to pace themselves and see the best possible return on their education investment.</p><p>If you’ve considered going back to school but thought it couldn’t be done because you don’t have the time, these new online program innovations are worth a look. They provide tools to showcase accomplishments before you complete your studies, and give you the flexibility to learn on your terms and at your own pace.</p><p>Mount Washington College offers both an Associate of Applied Science and a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Business Administration degree program. To learn more about these programs and new options for learning and demonstrating the knowledge and skills employers are searching for, visit <a href="http://www.mountwashington.edu/index.aspx" rel="nofollow">mountwashington.edu</a>.</p>
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