Applied Marketing Science Research Study Instrumental in Developing Mid-Career Education Programs at MIT

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A recent article by Dr. Jennifer Stine in Continuing Higher Education Review (Vol. 72, 2008) describes a comprehensive research study conducted by Applied Marketing Science for our client, MIT. The study was designed to help MIT gather customer needs for a new Midcareer Acceleration Program it was developing for high-potential individuals with technical backgrounds, primarily women. The three-part study demonstrated that a holistic approach was needed to ease women's reentry into the workplace after taking time off to start a family.

When the program was first envisioned, the focus was on updating technical knowledge and skills. But the market research proved otherwise - that a more holistic approach was needed for mid-career reentry, and the experiences of our first two classes have certainly confirmed this.

A recent article by Dr. Jennifer Stine in Continuing Higher Education Review (Vol. 72, 2008) describes a comprehensive research study conducted by Applied Marketing Science for our client, MIT. The study was designed to help MIT gather customer needs for a new Midcareer Acceleration Program it was developing for high-potential individuals with technical backgrounds, primarily women. The three-part study included focus groups, interviews with local human resource professionals, and an Internet-based survey.

Two focus groups of alumnae were conducted: one with women over the age of 40 and currently employed; the second with women under the age of 40 who were taking time off from their careers. While the older group reacted quite favorably toward a women's mid-career reentry program, the younger group felt that the creation of such a program implied that women needed "extra help" and was viewed quite negatively.

Based on this feedback, an initial program was proposed and vetted by 15 senior hiring professionals in the technology area. Among this group, a long program of 6 months to one year, rather than one lasting just a few weeks, was seen as a credible way to provide the necessary skills and demonstrate an individual's commitment to returning to the workforce.

The last step was an Internet-based survey of a larger group to further evaluate the proposed program and get input on pricing - considered a potential barrier as registrants were largely footing the bill themselves. This potential area of concern was largely borne out by the survey.    

Many other needs were identified through the research conducted by AMS: the need to incorporate "soft skills" training, such as leadership, management, and communication skills; the inclusion of an internship to build confidence and experience; and the flexibility to include additional content courses if desired.

Thus far, MIT has graduated two classes from the program, and nearly all have found suitable employment within their field. According to Jenny Stine, who managed the program's development for MIT, "When the program was first envisioned, the focus was on updating technical knowledge and skills. But the market research proved otherwise - that a more holistic approach was needed for mid-career reentry, and the experiences of our first two classes have certainly confirmed this."    

About Applied Marketing Science

Applied Marketing Science is one of the leading Voice of the Customer consulting companies in the world, with proven methodologies for gathering the Voice of the Customer, training and coaching clients in VOC methods, and brainstorming using state-of-the-art, web-based tools. Over the past twenty years, we have helped hundreds of clients in a broad range of industries incorporate "best practices" into their product development processes. Founded in 1989 with roots in the MIT Sloan School, AMS offers an array of services to meet client needs, and specializes in developing customized solutions for each situation.

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Michelle Harris
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