November 13, 2019 - This year’s STEM Education Summit - hosted by Macmillan Learning- brought together key education and business leaders to discuss a highly debated topic, the future of work. Most notably was Kaplan University Partners President Brandon Busteed’s remarks on why we need to merge education and work. He mentioned two very important statements that we need to spend more time discussing. The number one reason why Americans value education is to get a good job. The number one critique about higher education is that college graduates are not ready for jobs. So, where have we gone wrong and how do we fix it? This idea is the foundation of our work at the 114th Partnership.
Before we get into how we can solve this issue, there are several Gallup data points worth revisiting.
98% of provosts at universities say they are doing a good job at preparing students for success in the workplace
13% of U.S. adults strongly agree that college graduates are prepared for success in the workplace
11% of C-level business executives feel college graduates have the skills necessary to fill the roles their companies have open
Current Skills Gap
There is clearly a large gap here between how education institutions are preparing students for the workforce and what employers are looking for in new hires. Busteed made an important point that there are real issues that are creating the gap and perceived issues. He used critical thinking, a skill we see on almost every job posting, as an example. We can all agree that students need to have critical thinking as a skill before you enter the workforce. If you ask a CMO what this means, they are going to tell you they are looking for a candidate who can think strategically and bring big ideas to the table. In academia, they might say this means someone who can poke holes and question dissertations. We can rush to agree on something as simple as students needing critical thinking skills, but when we take a closer look we are not on the same page at all.
So, the million-dollar question is how can we merge education and business? According to Busteed, this is when “magic” is created. If we take a look at the Gallup-Purdue Index, we see that recent graduates who had an internship or job where they could apply what they were learning in college were more likely to have full-time employment and be engaged at work. We need to focus on work-integrated learning and relationship-rich learning.
The Future of Work
Where do we go from here? Through our work with Spark 101, we are seeing that Fortune 500 companies are eager to have opportunities like this because they are having trouble finding qualified candidates. They are now needing to create their own talent pipelines, but are struggling to recruit strictly out of colleges. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we think about education and business sectors working together to teach, train, and prepare students for successful careers.
Busteed left us with one final warning that needs to be understood. This is not an “either-or” conversation. It’s not STEM education versus liberal arts. It is about education and business collaborating to equip students with the necessary skills to have successful and meaningful careers.