'Corporations are becoming the new universities of the future,' Pearson CEO says

Enrollment at colleges and universities dipped amid the pandemic, and one education company chief is optimistic about the increased usage of remote and alternative learning. 

"During the pandemic… in many ways corporations are becoming the new universities of the future, where the need to re-skill and upscale your workforce and for employees to learn new skills along the way is becoming more and more prevalent," Pearson CEO Andy Bird told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). "We see a very, very large opportunity in that space."

Pearson, which previously excelled as a textbook giants, is pivoting to digital learning and helping companies secure accreditation and certifications for employees. (Other companies in this space include Coursera and edX.)

"The way that students learn is becoming more modular, and there's going to be a lot more choices out there," said Bird, a former Disney ($DIS) executive. "And really at Pearson, we're in the intellectual property creation business. In our higher education business, we create those coursewares. … We're launching a college app for U.S. colleges for the fall this year, which we're very excited about."

Some accredited for-profit colleges, such as the University of Phoenix, have deep experience offering online education for students. Many traditional colleges have also begun dipping their toes into online education, as seen from the University of Arizona's acquisition of for-profit online school Ashford University.

At the same time, however, Education Department (ED) data details how hundreds of thousands of borrower defense claims have been filed against for-profit schools and so-called covert for-profits — for-profit institutions that have sought to switch their schools to nonprofit status — by students who felt they were misled by empty promises and misleading marketing.

A surge of interest in offering alternative credentials has also been a major trend for companies.

Amazon recently launched an "upskilling program" for employees to become software engineers, partnering with Lambda School and Kenzie Academy.

Coursera has also developed a program to help some students earn professional certificates from companies including Google and government agencies such as the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Employers are becoming "a lot more focused on the type of learning that their employees are getting," Bird said. "That positions Pearson very well because we can not only assess the workforce, but we can then create bespoke courseware for corporations to ensure that employees get the type of learning, re-skilling, up-skilling that they're going to need moving forward."

Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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