As we kick off 2011, if you are in the higher education field, as I am, things are looking great.
Higher education is becoming a national priority thanks to our president’s call to produce 8 million more college graduates by 2020. Money is there to help make that happen thanks to the likes of America’s philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates who pledged $35 million to boost community college graduation rates.
With an economy looking up, there may even be greater hope for good jobs for those newly minted degree holders.
So I have been wondering why, if not down exactly, I don’t feel like doing a little dance. After all, I am getting to see the kind of education reform I have dedicated my career to promoting become the “it”.
The problem is the “it” isn’t that simple any more. The accusation I have heard for years from employers is that too often the students who emerge with academic credentials alone are not qualified for work. Our new knowledge driven economy needs students with both academic AND practical grounding. This is borne out by recent data.
According to The Miami Herald, graduates of Florida’s career focused community college programs on average have higher starting salaries than those who graduate with bachelor’s degrees from Florida’s state universities. “…graduating with workforce-ready skills…appears to be one of the key components for associate-holders’ strong earnings.” We need to learn from Florida’s experience.
With the unprecedented focus on boosting college completion rates, there must be equal emphasis on graduating students with workforce-ready skills. We need to take advantage of this attention to promote education that produces graduates truly ready for careers that will contribute to economic growth.
Clearly, business leaders and educators share similar goals. Employers seek workplace-ready workers, while higher-education administrators and faculty aim to prepare students with the education and credentials required to succeed in today’s challenging global economy.
And as Sara Toland, Senior Manager, Workforce Readiness, Business and Community Engagement, Corporate Voices, points out in her Corporate Voices’ blog post, “A Postsecondary Credential: One Key To Finding and Keeping a Job,” the focus now must be on educational attainment that results in a postsecondary credential that has value in the workplace and within the labor market. Here’s an excerpt:
This education skills gap is a crisis affecting individuals, families, communities, businesses and the national economy.
Learn and earn initiatives are one crucial strategy for addressing the skills gaps that are hindering workers and businesses.
Through the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Corporate Voices for Working Families has compiled a series of micro-business case studies highlighting employers who are establishing learn and earn partnerships. These employers, who include Expeditors, CVS Caremark, and Bison Gear and Engineering Corporation, are collaborating to provide working learners with the opportunity to pursue postsecondary credentials while simultaneously working and earning a living.
Corporate Voices believes that when business and industry partner with education to create opportunities for individuals to advance academically and along career pathways, business, education and students can all reach their goals. As reported in the recently released “From an “Ill-Prepared” to a Well-Prepared Workforce: The Shared Imperatives for Employers and Community Colleges to Collaborate,” through collaboration:
- Individuals will be supported and encouraged to complete postsecondary credentials essential to obtaining or growing into employment with family-sustaining wages.
- Businesses will gain skilled, work-ready talent.
- Education will be more closely matched to labor market demands, and businesses will support the college completion agenda.
Partnerships between business and education are essential to improving the lives of working families. Corporate Voices, through its workforce readiness platform, will continue to highlight industry leaders, to participate in research design and to educate policy makers, all in an effort to help explain the challenges and opportunities around the education and skills gap facing our country today. Corporate Voices invites employers who might have a learn and earn model to be highlighted and/or would like to join the Learn and Earn Business Leader Team to explore peer to peer learning of promising practices, to contact us.