Institutions can make key changes to serve as better partners to prospective employers of their graduates and reduce the workforce skills gap.

3 ways higher ed can reduce the workforce skills gap

Colleges and universities can institute a few key changes to serve as better partners to prospective employers of their graduates

Many companies continue to struggle as they seek to attract and retain highly-skilled workers, leading to unfilled positions in some of the nation’s most critical industries. University graduates have strong soft skills, but there is a gap in that skill knowledge and their ability to apply those skills to industries or functions.

On the other hand, many graduates of bootcamps or other skill-development programs have strong technical skills, but don’t have the soft skills necessary–such as communication skills and empathy–to thrive and advance.

Many of today’s workplace-based issues arise from a failure to view postsecondary education from a holistic standpoint, says Amrit Ahluwalia, senior director of content and strategic insights at Modern Campus.

“These gaps exist because different education providers tend to focus strongly on specific learning outcomes, instead of thinking holistically about a learner’s journey,” Ahluwalia said. “Individuals typically enroll in education programs to get the skills they need to be successful at work. But they also need a pathway or plan that’s going to help them continue to advance and grow over the course of their career. For universities, this means ensuring students are learning critical soft skills—but also how to apply them in real world scenarios. For colleges and bootcamps, it means ensuring students are building the soft skills they will need over the long term while helping them develop technical competencies that are in-demand right now.”

But employers tend to come up short when they hire new employees, he pointed out.

“Conversely, many employers struggle to develop strong onboarding and training programs that help new entry-level employees learn the fundamentals needed to succeed at their company and in their industry. Instead, they expect new hires to come in and contribute right from day one. This reality is unlikely to change,” Ahluwalia said.

“Employers should look to forge strong partnerships with local colleges and universities designed to provide their employees—both new and existing—access to educational programming that helps them address skills gaps. This way, you’re leveraging the expertise of dedicated education providers, offering an education program that supports employee retention and upskilling, and doing all this for the relatively low investment of tuition reimbursement—rather than building a full educational infrastructure from scratch.”

Ahluwalia says that colleges and universities can institute a few key changes to help them serve as better partners to prospective employers of their graduates and help reduce the skills gap:

  • First, producing skills transcripts for graduates can help them better articulate and communicate the soft and technical skills they developed through their educational process.
  • Secondly, ensuring that their continuing, professional or workforce education unit is responsive to the needs of local employers can ensure the institution serves as a partner in the ongoing education of professionals across their service area.
  • Finally, aligning programming with career outcomes can help students get a picture of their career pathway right from their first interaction with the institutional website.

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Laura Ascione