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2024 Trends to Watch: Workforce Development Marketing

Workforce development, skills education, microcredentials, short-term credentialing, and non-degree credentials are just a few of the phrases used to describe programs and coursework that prepare adult students for jobs in the workforce. At AccessU, we use the term workforce development program to describe any institution or organization committed to skilling, upskilling or reskilling workers for jobs. These programs attack skills gaps in areas where there is a strong industry need for workers at the local or national level.

Workforce development marketing is a key component to any workforce development strategy. No matter the industry, programs must use sound marketing tactics to differentiate themselves from other educational opportunities. More than that, workforce development programs have the unique challenge of convincing their audience that their current situation could be improved by investing in an upskilling or reskilling program. Convincing an automotive technician that it’s beneficial to retrain as an electric vehicle technician or convincing a stay-at-home parent that training to work in an early childhood program are uphill battles that require creativity, flexibility and focus. A strong marketing program overcomes hurdles to drive website traffic and increase applications to your program.

As workforce development programs evaluate their marketing efforts and strategies in 2024, here are three tools to keep an eye on.

Utilize Social Search Engine Optimization

At AccessU, we believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works best when an organization evaluates the content on its website to determine how it resonates with relevant audiences. The same strategy is true for Social SEO.

Why does Social SEO matter? Gen Z is more likely to search for a brand, product or service on a social network. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are the three platforms where this demographic is most likely to search. These three apps have one main differentiating feature from a search engine – they are focused on image or video instead of text.

This means that a 23-year-old may search for jobs in your state on Google or social media. Why search for content on social media? Users feel like the content on social media is more authentic, and if it isn’t, they can rely on video comments to provide fact-checking. Searching on social media allows users to search for what they want instead of relying on algorithms. Because content is available in a variety of ways, prospective students can use their preferred platform for search, and programs are forced to expand their outreach and efforts in their area to move the needle. For a generation accustomed to photo/video content, Instagram and TikTok are more accessible than text-dominant Google search results.

Expanding into Social Search Engine Optimization enhances traditional SEO strategies that are in place and ensures brand placement no matter where a prospective student might search. Social SEO also provides diversity of presence that can be used by AI platforms like ChatGPT and Gemini, as these programs scour all online sources for information to respond to questions from users.

Embrace Artificial Intelligence

No list of trends in 2024 is complete without mentioning Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI will transform marketing efforts for years to come. Two years ago, Facebook changed its name to Meta, indicating a focus on working and playing in a virtual world. They have expanded offerings to include a virtual assistant that can be customized based on your social-emotional needs and language translation models that allow for almost immediate communication across languages. In February, ChatGPT set the record for the fastest-growing consumer app in history, and in November, the company had over 100 million weekly active users. With that type of audience, this is technology we cannot afford to ignore in our strategic marketing efforts.

AI can create efficiencies in marketing and enrollment operations. It can create personas for your target students and draft communications to them, creating time for the marketing team to focus on strategies for each person and customizing communication flows across channels. The efficiencies created with the use of AI do come with their own needs. Because the outputs from an AI program are only as good as the information it receives, any work output from an AI tool must be double-checked to ensure that your institution’s voice is reflected, and that the information is accurate.

Right now, AccessU is evaluating how AI will influence our programming, and we advise our clients to do the same.

Look for Nano Influencers

Not all influencers have 400 million followers, and that’s a good thing. Nano influencers, or influencers with fewer than 10,000 followers on social media, can generate almost twice as much engagement as larger influencers. Nano influencers also have a much lower price point, making it more affordable to engage influencers in celebrating your workforce development program. The following for a nano influencer is often small, yet focused, creating a tailored, targeted audience for your program.

To look for a nano influencer for your program, evaluate your social media accounts for profiles that are regularly reposting your content, tagging your program or using your hashtag. These are influencers who are already invested in your program and may be willing to amplify your success stories.

Nano influencers also offer a more targeted audience and more personal interaction, leading to higher engagement rates on each post. They are seen as more authentic than larger influencer brands and potentially have more long-term impact than larger influencers.

These are just three of the trends to watch in 2024. For workforce development programs, they are the three that we see as having the most potential impact on enrollment marketing strategy.

About the Author

Tony Pearman

Tony began his advertising career with his first graphic design job before he even graduated VCU and has worked since then to refine his craft and learn from amazing mentors and clients. Founding AccessU in 1996, he built an award-winning agency that delivers exceptional client service, strategy, and creative work...

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