Business vs. Higher Education: The Conundrum We Must Solve

Business vs. Higher Education: The Conundrum We Must Solve

If there was any question about the disengagement between business and higher education – and the critical need for better alignment – the poll, “Innovative Imperative: Enhancing the Talent Pipeline” recently released by Northeastern University confirms it.

Employers must have the workforce necessary for continued growth and success and employees must have advancement and careers that are meaningful and financially rewarding.

The core findings of the poll reveal that business leaders are aware of the importance and relevance of partnerships with educational institutions but do not systematically embed them in their businesses.

While many employers participate in Northeastern University’s signature co-op program, the relationship often does not extend beyond the placement of full-time,on-site students.

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How to Better Align

What are the consequences of this misalignment? Employers hire fewer employees, concerned about their skill set and waiting for the “perfect” employee.  Too often employees do not get the appropriate education or experience for the actual needs of employers and come ill-equipped to the workplace.

So how can higher education help solve this conundrum?

First, by listening to employers as to what they expect for their workforce.

Second, by speaking about employability, adult learners and experiential learning.

And employers need to be open to education being delivered differently and more effectively than traditional on campus programs.

Experiential Learning

Northeastern University is committed to aligning with employers.  According to the survey, a whopping 97% agree that education programs should include practical experience.

The University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) has long recognized the value its degree and certificate programs can provide to employers and working adults.  It continues to offer value to employers by aligning academic offerings with real, identified skill sets needed by businesses to grow and thrive.

Our professional degrees include two components that educate individuals for the workplace: The model of experiential learning that develops real life experiences that mirror how employees perform in the global economy, and the ability to offer online courses as well as on-site courses, which provides greater flexibility. With an online course, employers can insure that all of its employees get the same education and  experience regardless of geography, time zone, culture or language.

The Issue with Online

Yet despite these benefits, employers are less willing to embrace online learning.  Although most would consider hiring an applicant with a degree or certification earned online, there is reluctance to endorse it.

I suggest that this is largely due to employer unfamiliarity with online learning and the limited understanding of how rich and complete an online program can be.

Given exposure to the robust online educational opportunities at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies, I am confident that employers will recognize how valuable they are to their operations and success.  Online courses are equally rigorous as on site courses.  In many respects, they are more demanding and require a level of self-motivation, time management, and group learning in a complicated setting.

Online learning with experiential opportunities is the future of education for employers and employees. It insures employee retention is an increasingly mobile workforce. It provides working adults with improved skill sets, promotions or new positions. It will fuel the economy and insure that businesses can grow and succeed.

How can we not seize the moment for our economic and societal well-being?

About Joanne Goldstein

Joanne F. Goldstein, former Secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, serves as Associate Vice President of Workforce Development and Employer Engagement in the College of Professional Studies. She leads workforce development, with a specific focus on integrating workforce needs into academic programs at the College.

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