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Unemployment Prompts Online Training Challenging Colleges: Jobs

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Wed Jun 19 2013

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(From Bloomberg Businessweek)--Acupuncturist Courtney Wallace was struggling to pay off $60,000 in student debt. Seeking more lucrative work through tapping skills she’d learned as a kid building websites, she went to TrainSignal Inc., which provides web-based computer training for $49 a month. A month later, she was hired as a systems specialist at a consulting company in Chicago.

“It’s becoming less and less about formal education,” said Wallace, 25, who moved to Washington in the middle of last year for a higher-level tech support specialist job at The Public Health Institute. “People just want to know that you can do the job.”

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While online courses have been around since the early days of the Internet, job training has remained the purview of community colleges and vocational schools, requiring students to spend thousands of dollars to learn word processing, financial spreadsheets and web development. With unemployment hovering at 7.6 percent, companies like TrainSignal and Lynda.com Inc. are pitching what they call a more efficient and affordable route for people who need retraining on their own schedule.

They’re part of a revival in web education startups. Venture capitalists poured $632.3 million into the market in 2012, up 41 percent from the previous year, and the most since the dot-com bubble’s peak in 2000, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Lynda, based in Carpinteria, California, raised $103 million in January led by Spectrum Equity and Accel Partners, the largest venture funding on record for an education company, based on NVCA data.

Momentum Building

For job training, momentum for online education is building. Richard Gallanti, a vocational counselor at Rehabilitation Perspectives Inc. in Burke, Virginia, offers Lynda.com to every client, mostly professionals, like police officers and firefighters, who were injured on the job and need skills for office work.

Clients using Lynda can learn Microsoft Corp.’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint programs and Autodesk Inc.’s (ADSK) AutoCAD software for architects, and typically find jobs in about half the time that it takes for those who stick with traditional classroom training, Gallanti said.

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