Pearson's new boss set out his plan for the education group to grow beyond schools and colleges on Monday with a strategy to build a lifelong direct connection to consumers by helping workers to learn new skills and retrain.
Hired on a large salary in October to bring his digital skills to the British company, the former Disney executive Andy Bird said there was a huge opportunity to work with corporations or workers to provide new skills after the pandemic.
Launched in the 1840s as a construction company, Pearson has reinvented itself several times over the decades, and is now seeking to navigate the shift from analog to digital learning.
Focused purely on education, the company has suffered major disruption as students, particularly in U.S. colleges, moved from buying new textbooks to buying second-hand books and using cheaper online programs, hitting its profits.
"What excites me about the potential with direct-to-consumer is in 2019 Pearson engaged with over 100 million learners globally, and within the U.S. college education system every year there's about 10 million students who utilize Pearson products," Bird told reporters.
"So you can imagine as we start to build this direct relationship with consumers and then we're able to follow those learners as they enter into careers, how we are able to compound the number of consumer interactions and engagements we have over time to really provide solutions for lifelong learning."
To change its focus, Pearson will split its workforce of around 22,000 into five new divisions which will be supported by a Direct to Consumer group that will help to roll out digital capabilities across the company.
That will help it to focus on three areas: the rise in online and digital learning; addressing the workforce skills gap; and helping companies secure accreditation and certification for workers in areas such as languages or sector expertise. It also plans to sell its international local courseware businesses, assets that produce textbooks, and materials in markets such as Brazil and Canada and which generate around 300 million pounds of revenue, Citi analysts estimated.
The Citi analysts said the strategy update, provided with the 2020 results, looked like a more substantial overhaul than expected. Pearson's shares were up 3%, giving it a market value of around 5.8 billion pounds.
Its 2020 results showed the impact from the pandemic, when schools were closed and exams canceled, and a boost from online learning.
The company reported a 10% drop in revenue and adjusted operating profit of 313 million pounds ($432 million), down 46%.
($1 = 0.7238 pounds)
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