You know you want a new job or a new career. Maybe you need retraining to make a career change. Or maybe you’re taking the first step into the workforce. You can gain the skills and knowledge you’ll need in different ways.
Many jobs require specific training like a certificate or university degree. Others jobs need more general skills. In either case, you have many choices when it comes to the training or retraining route that’s best for you.
One goal, different paths
Once you’ve chosen a career path—or a new career—you’ll need to figure out what skills and knowledge you’ll need. Then you’ll need to decide how to get the right education or training. You might need to complete an apprenticeship, get a university degree, or train on the job.
Anika’s career goal is to provide bedside care for patients in hospital, whether as a health care aide, a licensed practical nurse (LPN), or a registered nurse (RN). How will she develop the skills she needs to start working? She can choose any of the following paths:
- Direct approach—If she knows exactly what she wants and has everything she needs to enter and complete the program, Anika can:
- Phased approach—If she’s not sure which role she wants or if she doesn’t have the qualifications or funding to reach her goal right away, Anika can start small and grow. She can:
- Attend college to complete a 1-year health-care aide certificate.
- Then she can complete a health care aide bridging program to become an LPN.
- Then complete a post-LPN bridging program at a university and pursue her RN degree.
- Other approaches—Depending on her needs, Anika can also:
Which path is right for you?
Before you decide on your training route, it’s a good idea to:
- Identify the skills you already have. This will help you figure out what kind of learning you still need.
- Consider your options. Your choices range from distance education to on-the-job training. You can combine different options to find the path that’s best for you.
- Evaluate the possibilities. Weigh the pros and cons of each learning option. Chose the one that’s best for your situation.
Employers look for 2 types of skills:
- Core skills are the essential skills you’ll need for every job. Collaboration (teamwork) and problem solving are two examples of core skills.
- Work-specific skills are the technical skills required for certain job-related tasks. For example, auditors need to know how to analyze financial accounts. Sprinkler systems installers need to know how to install pipe systems.
Core skills are known as transferable skills because they move with you from job to job. But work-specific skills can also be transferable. For example, a sprinkler systems installer can transfer their knowledge about pipe systems to a career as a plumber, gasfitter, or oil pipeline operator. Take this Skills Quiz to help you identify your skills.
Identifying your skills is really about knowing yourself. When you take the time to acknowledge your gifts and talents, you develop a stronger sense of who you are. You know what you can contribute. You discover what you need to learn and grow. And that feels good!
When you take stock of your skills, you may find you need more training or education. If you think you need more training, a number of options are open to you:
- You could become an apprentice.
- You could train on the job.
- You could sign up for distance learning.
- You could go to school full time or part time.
- You could study on your own.
Any of these options—or a combination—could work for you.
Apprenticeship allows you to earn as you learn. You’ll get training and experience while working and earning a salary.
In an apprenticeship program, you’ll work under the supervision of more experienced workers. Most of your learning will happen on the job. But you’ll also take several weeks of classroom training every year.
The length and terms of your apprenticeship will depend on the job you’re training for. For example, welders apprentice for 3 years. They complete 1,560 hours of on-the-job training and take classes for 8 weeks each year. Wire process operators, which are a special type of welder, also take 8 weeks of classes. They apprentice for 2 years. And they have different on-the-job training requirements than other types of welders.
Many employers offer on-the-job training for new employees. Police departments and oil and gas companies are two examples.
Some employers offer training to help staff upgrade their skills or learn new ones.
On-the-job training can happen on or off the work site. It can be provided by:
- the employer
- a professional association
- an educational institution
- a contracted third party
Here are some ways to get information about on-the-job training:
- Talk to your employer.
- Ask a career advisor at Alberta Supports or explore this directory of government-funded training services near you.
- Contact your industry association, union, or professional association.
Distance learning is also called distance education.
Distance learning lets you study at your own pace in your own place. It uses a variety of learning materials and formats. These include:
Distance learning programs range from high school upgrading to graduate degrees.
Not all distance learning programs are the same. Before you enrol, make sure your employer will recognize the credentials you’ll earn. And make sure your credits are transferable to other educational institutions.
Part-time study allows you to take 1 or 2 courses at a time. You choose when to do your assignments. And you can often set your own deadlines for finishing courses.
Part-time education gives you the flexibility to balance school with work, family life, or other interests.
Going to school full time has many advantages:
- You can complete your studies in less time.
- You can focus all your energy on your studies. You might get better marks as a result.
- If you’re on campus, you can get help and support from your instructors and classmates.
- You can maintain a regular schedule of classes and assignments. That might make it easier to stay motivated.
Attending classes full time requires time and money. Visit Pay for Your Education for information about:
- Grants and awards
- Student loan programs
Studying on your own is a great option if you know the skills and knowledge you need. And if you don’t require a specific credential.
There are lots of ways to access information to help you learn:
- Search online.
- Visit your public library.
- Check out a local bookstore.
Remember, studying on your own takes more determination and self-discipline than any other option. To be successful, you’ll need to be very clear about your study goals.
To find study resources online, use the skills and knowledge you want to learn as keywords. Add the word “course” to your search. Some online courses are free. Some are free through the public library. Some offer badges or certificates you can include on your master resumé.
Here are some websites that offer free or inexpensive courses online:
- Gale courses (free through the public library)
- LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com; free through the public library)
- MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses)
It’s important to choose a learning path that’s best for you. Evaluate each possibility by answering these questions:
- What skills and knowledge does this option provide?
- How relevant are these skills for your career?
- What credential does it offer?
- What credential, if any, do you need?
- How reputable is your chosen place of learning?
- Will the employers you want to work for recognize the credentials you earn?
- Will other learning institutions recognize your credits and credentials?
- What kinds of further learning or training can this option lead to?
- How well does this option suit your circumstances? Does it offer the right balance between learning and everyday life? Will it allow you to meet your other needs?
Why continuous learning is important
Every job and every career move requires particular knowledge and skills. This is true whether you’re starting your first job, moving to a new position, or changing fields completely.
As people get older and advance in their careers, circumstances change. Many people find that the skills and knowledge they started with are out of date. Or they have little to do with their current job.
For many people, the work they end up doing has more to do with choices and opportunities than credentials or training.
But then you may find that the skills you’ve developed—and the skills you most enjoy—have taken you in a new direction. You may continue to work in the same field. But you may have moved into management, sales, public relations, or training.
Throughout your career, it’s important to know what paths you can take to build—or rebuild—the knowledge and skills you need.