Leveraging Association Events To Tap Into The $1.1 Trillion Higher Education and Training Market

According to a recent study, “The Association Role In The New Education Paradigm,” by Shelly Alcorn, CAE and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, MA, CAE, there is a huge disconnect between education and employment worldwide. There are workers and there are jobs, but there isn’t always a good fit between the two. Association events, consistently positioned as education outlets, can play a unique role in leveraging the tremendous opportunity that accompanies this complex challenge.

association events

“Students and recent graduates are drowning in debt and questioning the value of their degrees. Worldwide, there are millions of unemployed youth alongside millions of jobs that can’t be filled. Employers are frustrated because they can’t find skilled workers,” Alcorn and Engel write. They believe that associations are uniquely positioned to fill the education gap. Association events, in particular, can be an important mechanism for shouldering some of the educational burden.

Association Events Can Fill Education Gaps

They are many components of education, including core fundamentals, continuous learning of new skills, examination of time-sensitive topics, and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Because universities are expensive and often can’t keep pace with advances in all areas of the global economy, association events can pick up some of the slack through specialty conferences, hot topic sessions, and face-to-face engagement. To fully address the education-to-employment opportunity, event planners can take some specific steps:

1. Design association events that are more oriented towards professional development, education, and training using measurable-learning key productivity indicators (KPIs). How?

  • Use qualified instructors rather than volunteer members
  • Develop event-education curriculums
  • Measure learning through testing and competency evaluations
  • Develop educational materials that attendees can use year round

2. Focus on the components of education that face-to-face meetings can deliver on particularly well.

For example:

  • Core fundamentals requiring extended learning and practice over a period of time may be better handled with online learning modules and materials that are always available.
  • Content that tackles hot topics or provides ample opportunities for knowledge-sharing are sweet spots for educational conferences.

3. Implement technology that can facilitate learning.

Event app surveys can be used to quantify the knowledge of participants before the education and after to measure effectiveness.

Or you can use Group Discussion capabilities and speaker-audience Q & A features to facilitate idea exchanges around specific topics. Document storing and sharing that is facilitated by cloud-based mobile applications can assist learners with accessing educational materials during and after the courses.

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Taking Advantage Of The Adult Education Opportunity

It’s conceivable that some associations will manage event education differently than others. Groups whose members directly impact human health and welfare, medical doctors and social workers, for example, may opt to provide more foundational and skills-based education at events. Other associations, say restaurant workers or plumbers, may focus more deeply on discussing current events and engagement (networking).

The potential benefits to associations of using events to address the education gap are considerable. In addition to building a skilled workforce, filling jobs that would otherwise remain unfilled, and earning additional revenue (“Adult education is one of the hottest current investment markets,” Alcorn and Engel write), advanced event education can help associations solidify the position of their events as member magnets and non-dues revenue generators.

What’s Next?

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