Should institutions have better “employer leadership?”

New brief outlines how employers can work to strengthen the talent pipeline from colleges & universities under current accreditation regulations.

A new brief from the commerce side of the arena says that employers are anxious to have more of a say in higher ed’s talent pipeline. But how to accomplish closing the skills gap under current accreditation rules that don’t always focus on outcomes?

That’s the big issue tackled in the new brief from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) Center for Education and Workforce, and USA Funds, to help businesses close the skills gap they complain is keeping them from hiring knowledgeable employees.

According to a Gallup survey cited by the brief, only 11 percent of business leaders perceive college graduates to be ready for work, whereas 96 percent of chief academic officers in colleges believe students are adequately prepared to start their careers. Even students noticed the disconnect, with only 35 percent feeling prepared to enter the workforce.

“This is increasingly problematic because of the increasing number of nontraditional students who are now entering higher education to improve their career opportunities,” states the report. “With higher education being the chief source of talent for our business community, it is of paramount importance that we begin to address this disconnect.”

In an effort to strengthen the talent pipeline, the USCCF delved into research around its Talent Pipeline Management initiative, which focuses on supply chain management. USCCF then applied lessons learned from supply chain management to “a rapidly changing postsecondary environment where higher education accreditation plays a major quality assurance role.” [To learn more about the Talent Pipeline Management initiative, and specific lessons learned from supply chain management, read the full report.]

Approach #1: Strengthen Employer Voice in Existing Accreditation

According to the brief, one of the lessons learned from creating better talent pipelines within industry is to work within existing parameters instead of waiting for often slow reform.

This approach, argues the brief, would improve accredited colleges’ and universities’ responsiveness to employer needs, and could be accomplished by building on current accreditation reform recommendations to:

  • Accreditation Governance and Management: Strengthen employer involvement in governance as well as institutional and program review, which could involve mandatory membership of employers on accreditor governing bodies and review teams.
  • Institutional Mission: Require accredited institutions to declare whether workforce readiness or career preparation is part of their mission and, if so, provide information on how they evaluate success in achieving this part of their mission.
  • Advisory Groups: Require accredited institutions and programs to have employer advisory groups for all of their programs that have a workforce readiness or career preparation mission.
  • Performance Measurement and Reporting: Require accredited institutions and programs to measure and report on performance metrics most relevant to employers and to meet minimum performance levels to remain accredited.

Yet, this approach is not without its challenges.

(Next page: Challenges to strengthening employer voice in talent pipeline)