Higher Education and Employers: Thrive Together or Perish Apart

Friday, May 3, 2013

No matter who you ask -- whether it’s a representative sample of Americans, incoming college freshmen, or parents of 5th-12th graders -- they say the most important reason for a degree beyond high school is to get a good job. But, few believe that those who have a post-high school credential are well-prepared for success in the workforce. And, although many workers who don’t yet have a college degree or certificate want to go back to get one, they see a number of barriers to doing so. The solution to these problems lies in new forms of collaboration between higher education and employers. 

With a coming world-wide jobs war, it is imperative that higher education and employers get this collaboration right. If they don’t, we run the risk of destroying one of the things America is best known for -- our higher education system. If higher education and employers partner together, they will thrive. If they continue down their disconnected paths, a large number of colleges, universities, and businesses will perish. 

Americans have given higher education a clear mandate: a degree had better translate to a good job, otherwise it’s very difficult to justify. Nearly every single American -- 97% to be exact -- says that education beyond high school is important. So, although America’s appetite for higher education is still incredibly strong, there are painful data suggesting the demand may come to a crashing halt if we can’t make a better connection between higher education degrees and jobs. 

Half of recent graduates -- not even including the large percentage who drop out of college -- are in jobs that don’t require a degree, meaning we obviously have not built a direct pipeline between degrees conferred and the jobs available in the U.S. This is shameful. And it’s the direct result of employers and higher education failing to work together. Not only are they not working together now, they are barely even talking to one another. 

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