Many recruiters and HR professionals endure the daily struggle of finding qualified candidates, and even after they’ve found the perfect match for their team, it’s hard to keep these rare individuals. With specific industries - like tech, healthcare, and HVAC - in dire need of a larger talent pool, it’s becoming harder than ever to find and retain the perfect candidate.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, however, those who have bachelor’s degrees has increased by 18.4 million people from 2000 to 2018, bringing these numbers from 29.8 million to 48.2 million in just 18 years. Not to mention that people with master’s and doctoral degrees has doubled over the same time period. It seems like it should be easier than ever to find qualified candidates...right?
Job-seekers, however, struggle with finding that “perfect opportunity,” and many industries are in desperate need of employees. We have highly educated people unable to find jobs and major organizations unable to find qualified talent.
So what is going on here?
There are many factors contributing to this divide, one of which is a disconnect between postsecondary institutions and industry leaders, which is creating a skills gap in many fields. It’s important for higher education institutions and industry leaders to partner together to discuss the needs of the business community. But why?
According to Gallup, only 13% of Americans strongly agree that college graduates are well-equipped for the workplace, which supports the idea that many high school and postsecondary institutions are not fully preparing students for the workplace.
In education systems, degrees don't always match what specific skills or credentials students will need to be successful employees, which puts them at a disadvantage when starting their career. One example of this is in the financial industry, for instance, where employers are beginning to ask that entry-level candidates have their Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) credential. But many colleges don’t yet offer this type of training (although some do, read more about our partnership with the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation here).
Bringing colleges, universities, and employers together can help decrease the skills gaps that industry partners may be experiencing and implement educational programs to meet those needs. Rather than focusing mostly on classroom learning, educational institutions can start to incorporate more experience-based learning techniques, giving students the opportunity to receive hands-on experience and maintain an advantage in the job-seeking community.
Many employers are scouring job board sites, like CareerBuilder, Indeed, and LinkedIn, to find potential applicants, and while these job boards have value, they can sometimes be expensive and time-consuming.
If industry partners have the ability to be more hands-on in higher education planning and action, they are more likely to hire from these programs. Rather than sifting through hundreds of resumes, employers will have the opportunity to meet troves of qualified candidates that have learned the skills that employers themselves are asking for.
This also means that employers no longer have to face the struggle between technical skills, soft skills, and deciding which is more important. Many of our clients have shared that they are looking for candidates with a good mix of both, so having greater access to educational programs can ensure that students are learning both. With the help of industry leaders, higher education can consist of the most sought-after soft skills, as well as those technical skills desired in the workforce. This method has the opportunity to create the well-rounded candidates that businesses are looking for, meaning that organizations no longer have to settle for the “good enough” applicants.
The best part? With educational partners focusing on creating relevant training and businesses gaining access to qualified talent, industries can focus more on what they do best: growing their business and boosting the economy.
Many colleges and universities are facing declining enrollment numbers. According to Inside Higher Ed, higher education institutions in the United States are facing a decrease in enrollments for the eighth year in a row. This suggests, perhaps, that students are not finding a postsecondary education as necessary or relevant as it was in the past, especially with rising tuition costs and mounting student debt.
By partnering with industry leaders, however, higher education systems will have the ability to implement both technical and soft skills training into their curriculum and give students access to more job opportunities. Simply put, colleges will be able to upskill students and prepare them for the workforce. This gives colleges and universities higher relevance in the marketplace and creates a more substantial ROI for students earning their degrees. Universities can start to look at which degrees (or more often, certificates and microcredentials) are most relevant to today's workforce, and work with industry partners to grow those programs.
The idea of education-industry partnerships is a win-win for everyone involved, but this type of partnership will require adaptability and open communication between postsecondary institutions and industry leaders. Colleges and universities will need to be nimble and agile to keep up with the speed of industry and willing to implement programs that differ from the traditional higher education model. Many employers need candidates now and are not particularly anxious to wait four years for their candidate to be ready.
In fact, many employers are willing to hire candidates with basic skills and invest in their education with tuition reimbursement. It's not that the need for degrees is going away, it's just changing. It used to be that individuals go to college, earn their degree, and then start their career. Now, many companies are hiring first and helping their employees earn their degree.
Industries will need to communicate their ever-changing needs to colleges and meet with them regularly, especially if they want to create a pipeline of qualified candidates year after year. If both parties can continue to work together, the workforce community stands to gain a lot of happy employers, happy colleges, and happy workers.
Want to learn more about working with our ten community colleges here in Maricopa? Check out our Corporate Learning Concierge service!