Corporate learning—programs that teach employees about a particular skill or concept—relies increasingly on technology, and thus offers a range of opportunities for programmers, QA specialists, media designers, and project managers. (And no, you don’t have to become a trainer.)
Corporate training is a multi-billion-dollar industry; learning-management system provider Docebo, for example, suggests that e-learning revenues will reach $27 billion this year in the U.S. alone.
Executives in the business don’t see those trends slowing down anytime soon. “Learning is never not going to be needed,” said Peter Sandford, executive vice president of NXLevel Solutions, a learning company in Lambertville, N.J., that focuses on the pharmaceutical industry. “Trends come and go, but there are always new companies and new employees who need to learn, as well as existing employees who need training or re-training.”
Corporate learning is delivered electronically with increasing frequency. According to Training Magazine’s 2015 industry report, 73 percent of employers use learning-management systems, while 72 percent rely on virtual classrooms, webcasting or video broadcasting. Rapid e-learning tools were used by 51 percent of respondents, up from 48 percent in 2014, while 40 percent used application simulation tools, up from 33 percent the previous year.
Matching Technology to the Lesson
Many vendors develop their own technology to produce their learning products. Saint Louis-based ej4, for example, delivers its video-based solutions through a platform it developed using Ruby on Rails; it has several RoR developers on-staff. Though it handles most of its technology needs in-house, suggested CEO Ryan Eudy, the company will turn to vendors or SaaS solutions whenever the need arises.
For his part, Eudy looks for developers who are “up-to-date on the latest technology,” particularly Ruby on Rails and Amazon Web Services (AWS). He likes “entrepreneurial self-starters” who can get platforms up to scale quickly while bearing in mind the business needs of each project. That said, he doesn’t have a chiseled-in-stone checklist of skills to run through when he’s interviewing candidates. “They can be highly diverse in their skills,” he said. “We’re very agile.”
Sandford’s ideal candidate has strong communications skills “first and foremost,” he said. “They listen and they ask questions. They may spend days by themselves programming a solution, but if they don’t understand what it needs upfront, it’s not going to do the job.”
Project management is a key role at e-learning companies. At NXLevel, “the project manager becomes our voice to the client but also the manager of our internal team,” Sandford said. “It’s another reason communications are critical.”
Sandford and Eudy agree that tech is a critical component of their products. “This is an industry with good prospects,” Sandford said. “It covers so many industries and offers opportunities in small companies to big companies to inside training groups. Especially with the way technology and business are always changing, learning will always be needed.”
With that in mind, Eudy offers this advice for tech pros interested in the industry: Maintain a diverse skill set: “The more diverse you are, the more likely you’ll be to find a new position” when the time comes. “Learn to listen to feedback and criticism, and don’t be afraid of failure. Stuff’s going to happen.”