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Higher Education: Friend or Foe?
Higher education institutions do not always graduate students with the skills and competencies employers need. But two initiatives between major industries and colleges are working to reverse that trend.
Leaders would like to embrace the prospect of a nation brimming with workers possessing college degrees, poised to take their place in a 21st century workforce. However, many incoming employees lack the core competencies needed to handle their job responsibilities.This poses a threat to industry productivity and growth. In response, a number of employers in energy and telecommunications have partnered with colleges to design college curricula that teach essential industry skills for students entering the workforce — and employees already working. In doing so, they are setting an example of how to combine academic content and workplace competencies and narrow the skills gap. A Need for Communication and Alignment
Communications barriers between employers and colleges have historically been an impediment to establishing effective strategies to prepare students for jobs. Gail Coppage, director of outreach and innovation for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, or ConnSCU, system — which includes 17 colleges and universities — said these communications issues can completely hobble economic growth and development in a region, especially in energy. She said previous separate and individual energy-employer partnerships with ConnSCU came up short in fulfilling their objectives. “If the energy industry wanted to recruit and train students, they would go to a specific educational institution,” she said. “You could have the industry going to several different institutions in different regions, and these institutions would propose a different tweak or version of the curriculum that the industry implemented for students.”Colleges are not necessarily communicating with each other about all aspects in developed curriculum, Coppage said. “There wasn’t a uniform curriculum designed or being made available throughout a number of institutions.”Within the energy industry, Tom Burns kept a close eye on the issue from his post as director of training for Hartford, Conn.-based Northeast Utilities, which worked with institutions to train students in the ConnSCU system.
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