Many parents and high school students rely on U.S. News & World Report’s Best College Rankings when evaluating college options.
With the recent release of this year’s rankings, U.S. News also included median starting salaries for graduates as part of their calculation. Yet, while this is a great first step, it still doesn’t paint a complete picture.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.1 million jobs are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers. It’s time to start evaluating colleges on additional criteria, like degree or credential completion and job placement and advancement.
Business leaders are understandably worried about the inability to find the employees they need. In a global survey of CEOs, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported 73 percent see the lack of talent as a “key concern” and a barrier to future growth.
This disconnect between the skills businesses need and what K-12 and post-secondary institutions are teaching is unsustainable. We must bridge the divide between educational providers and employers so students are armed with the skills they need to perform today’s jobs.
Working together, educators and businesses can address the shortcomings in the current system.
A 2015 Georgetown University study reveals our nation’s colleges, universities, governments and corporations are spending a combined $1.1 trillion a year on post-secondary education. Nearly 60 percent of that sum goes to formal, traditional education.
However, employers are spending more than $400 billion a year for on-the-job training to provide necessary skills that were not gained at colleges and universities.
So how do we begin to address this disconnect? By forging partnerships between forward-looking companies and learning institutions at new and unprecedented levels.
Apprenticeship programs and work-integrated learning can reform both higher education and corporate-workforce training. In this emerging model, students learn on the job and study career-relevant coursework.
Some organizations have already begun to move in this direction. The American food and agribusiness company J.R. Simplot Co. in Boise, Idaho, has established a successful internship and outreach program that provides young people the professional development needed to become desirable hires.
Other companies are partnering with universities to ensure their employees have the right skills and opportunities for advancement.
Through these and other innovative programs, educational institutions have a responsibility to offer students a return on their time and financial investment.
Today’s gap between the supply and demand of well-trained workers is unsustainable for employers, workers and our nation.
We cannot continue applying an antiquated educational model ― college rankings included ― to a new economic reality. We need a fundamental overhaul of America’s education-to-workforce pipeline, and educators and employers must take the lead by working together to rebuild it.