Nearly 70% of organizations have a skills gap, up from 55% in 2021. Our Closing the Skills Gap 2023 report uncovered ways for your university to help reverse this trend—and attract more students in the process. Check out our on-demand webinar for findings on enhancing your academic programs around the needs of the post-pandemic workforce.
Key Discussion Areas
During this lively discussion, our report author and education leaders spotlight the challenges and opportunities higher ed has as a critical partner in closing the skills gap. You’ll learn strategies for:
- updating your degree programs to meet today’s skill needs
- collaborating with companies to craft upskilling programs
- recruiting students whose employers reimburse tuition
- offering certificates and other credentials beyond the degree
- David Capranos, Director of Market Strategy and Research
- Andrew J. Magda, Ed.D., Manager of Market Research
- Dennis Bonilla, Dean, Wiley Edge Academy
- Matt Seimears, Interim Provost, Eastern Oregon University
- Elizabeth Creamer, Vice President, Community College Workforce Alliance, Brightpoint & Reynolds Community Colleges
- Moderator: Suzanne Ehrlich, Associate Professor & Co-Director, UNITE Design Lab, University of North Florida
Stream the Webinar
Today’s webinar is state-of-the Skills Gap 2023: Challenges and Opportunities in supporting a Post Pandemic Workforce. Our webinar today is held in partnership with Wiley University Services. So, thank you to Wiley for helping us put this on. My name is Megan Raymond, I am the Senior Director of Membership & Programs here at WCET. The slides are available in the chat, and as we go through today, feel free to engage in the chat conversation and as you have questions, put them into the Q&A so that we can make sure that we don’t lose those amongst the chatter and we’ll get to your questions during the Q&A. We tend to have a pretty active Twitter discussion, and you can follow along at hashtag WCET webcast. So, I’m going to go ahead and kick it off to today’s moderator. Please welcome Suzanne Ehrlich, who’s the associate professor and co-director of the UNITE Design Lab at the University of North Florida and is also on our steering committee. Welcome, Suzanne.
Thank you, Megan. I appreciate it. Well, thank you everybody for joining us. We’re excited for this conversation we’re going to have today, and I’m thrilled to introduce an incredible panel that’s been put together for today, including Dennis Bonilla, Dean at Wiley Edge Global Academy. Thank you. David Capranos, who is Director of Market Strategy and Research at Wiley University Services. Thank you. David. Elizabeth Creamer, who is Vice President of Workforce Development, Community College Workforce Alliance. Thank you, Elizabeth. And Matt Seimears, Interim Provost at Eastern Oregon University. All right, we’re going to get ready and start this conversation and starting with you. David, thank you for taking the time to present this information.
Yeah, thanks Suzanne. So, today we’re going to be focused on a phrase that we hear a lot in the news today. It’s this idea of a skills gap, and essentially we’re trying to define it as this disparity this gap between what organizations need to deliver on their goals versus what’s available in the current workforce. And so I think as educators, as people that think about skilling and reskilling and upskilling and things along those lines, obviously the skills gap is a big part of what’s going to drive our thinking is how do we attack this? So, we did a study, we can go to the next slide here that you can download. I think we’ve got a link to it probably in the chat here. But it’s a report called the Skills Gap Report, Reimagining the Workforce. And what we did is we surveyed over 600 human resource professionals.
So, it was at all levels. Some of these folks were C level executives, chief talent officers, things along those lines. We also had kind of senior level folks, HR representatives. We surveyed all across different sizes of organizations too. So, we had some really small organizations up to some of the bigger companies in America and across a number of different industries or domains too. So, we had a lot of manufacturing, retail technology, and even healthcare in there. And we asked them a battery of questions around the skills challenges, especially in this post pandemic environment. We’ll go to the next slide there.
We’re going to share with you some of our key findings. And the plan today is for me to share a few data points related to those key findings. And then we’ll have a lively discussion with some of the colleagues that we have on the phone here, hopefully. So, key areas that we’re going to talk about is how the skills gap is spread, how there are staffing challenges, that there’s sort of a vicious circle that we’ll talk about, related to skills gaps. We’ll talk a little bit about the alternative credential market and how some companies and corporations are thinking about those things outside of the degree. We’ll then get into some recommendations throughout too and try to save some for you folks to ask some questions as well. So, with that being said, let’s get into the key findings here. So, our key finding, the first one was around the skills gap just broadening.
So, unsurprisingly, if we go to the data here, we were actually able to survey folks a couple of years ago around this theme, and we asked a pretty simple question, do you believe there’s a skills gap in your organization right now? So, do you have this mismatch that we talked about earlier? And you can see from the data about half the folks in 2021 said, sure, I think we definitely have one. Maybe about a third questioning the idea, maybe we do, maybe we need to evaluate post pandemic. And in this recent survey that we did, now it’s two thirds of folks are, yes, absolutely, we have a skills gap. We have a challenge in having the skills in the organization that we need to be able to deliver on our goals. A lot less folks are a lot less unsure too. So, that number getting cut in half to about 14% there. Folks understand that there’s an issue right now in our economy. And the issue is that the skills that I need maybe aren’t necessarily in the population. So, let’s go to the next slide here.
So, we ask a follow-up question, say, hey, if you do have this skills gap, what are you doing about it? And again, these are the talent folks in an organization, people responsible for hiring, people responsible for growing the business. A lot of them said to us, as much as two-thirds said to us, we’re looking at upskilling and reskilling our current employees, we’re investing in ourselves first. We’re going to try to offer those laddering opportunities, whether it be tuition reimbursement, kind of on-the-job training type stuff, enrichment training, certificates, things along those lines. A good portion of them are saying that we’re going to hire these skills in or we’re going to outsource them out. And so a lot of different strategies there. But I think a lot of it, what its foundation is around education and having some opportunity for you as educators to interface with these people and interact with these people to help bring those skills into their organizations.
So, I’m going to go through to the next finding too, and then I think we’ll open it up for conversation after this. But the other finding we have was that when a skills gap forms staffing challenges follow, and this was an interesting one for me, it seems like kind of that classic like snake eating its tail graphic. We asked folks, what are the causes of your skills gaps or what are the cause of your recruitment challenges? And a lot of them are saying it’s like, hey, we’ve got this existing gap and that kind of makes us seem out of date or out of touch, or maybe we’re losing share to other companies out there, things along those lines. And that’s driving this vicious circle where we’re going to get even more recruitment challenges. It’s going to be harder for us to acquire these skills from the marketplace.
So, again, what are you doing about it? Type question to these organizations. And it’s interesting to see that a lot of them will easily identified as, we don’t have the development initiatives in-house. We don’t have these resources. We don’t have off-the-shelf training and development services essentially. We’re probably going to need to spend some money. We’re going to have to spend some time. We’re going to have to find resourcing. We’re going to have to do that outside of the organization and bring it in. And again, I think the membership on this call, this is your opportunity. The companies are looking for ways to do this. They’re looking wait for ways to do it efficiently. And I think there’s an opportunity here to find more connections with employers and help them upskill and re-skill their workforces. Suzanne?
Yes. Absolutely. So, this is a great point for us to, I’ve already have a number of thoughts that it sparked within me listening findings here. But I think it’s a great opportunity to reach out to Dennis and maybe get some insight from maybe your perspective from the industry perspective and how companies might be struggling to fill some of these positions or how some of these findings might relate.
Well, yeah, I couldn’t agree more with the findings. We’re seeing that for our clients who are primarily in the financial services, hightech demand, high technical environments, they’re finding that during the pandemic, certainly a lot of people sort of relocated or did a lot of quiet quitting. But now that they’re coming back and they’re asking people to come back to the workplace, we’re finding that the skills gap are getting even more severe. And they’re breaking them down into really two categories. There’s the technical skills gap, which obviously for our clients are focused on software development, data analytics, data visualization, even writing skills, believe it or not, are ones that technically people are just not doing, are not finding enough people who have that.
But we’re finding even more, they’re also interested in trying to fill some of these software skills gaps associated with communication skills, visualization skills, something as simple as Excel or PowerPoint and how to visualize and communicate those, collaborating. How do they collaborate in Teams, especially in a hybrid work environment. And what are they doing in terms of cultural sensitivity? So, it’s a mix of both hard technical skills that are missing in the organization combined with the soft skills that will make them successful as the technology will evolve, these soft skills become more and more important in terms of critical thinking and problem solving. So, it’s there, they’re experiencing it and everybody is suffering from it.
Thank you for that. Matt, I would like to go to you to get your insights on how institutions might be looking at curriculum and connecting with alums and so forth on these topics as well.
So, thank you. Here at Eastern Oregon University, the curriculum begins with the deans and the faculty body at the college level. And then let’s say it successfully moves out of the college, it goes to a place called EPCC, which is Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee. And there crucial conversations take place. And if there is any need for continuous improvement for updating the curriculum or aligning it, whether it’s for an online model or face-to-face class or hybrid class at Eastern Oregon University, then it might go back to the college, get wordsmith, updated, and then it’s transitioned back to EPCC where the registrar and the group part of a voting process. And then it moves to faculty senate. Faculty senate gets to look at it closely and provide analysis or discussions, which oftentimes by the time it gets to faculty senate, it’s kind of wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s already been cleansed and moving forward. And then it depends, if it goes at the state level or part of our national accreditation, if it’s a new program, if it’s existing, the challenges could be new programs take a little bit longer to ferment at the state level. But everything else that’s kind of thematically woven through the institution of higher education here at Eastern Oregon University, it usually has a really good nudge forward to move it out of the institution in the hands of the community or part of our partnerships with the community colleges for common course numbering. Or what we have [inaudible 00:11:00], we actually have major transfer map that are aligned so the curriculum starts to get, its hooks all over the state as well as coming backwards into the institution, into the hands of the faculty member to disseminate in a classroom and expand from there.
Thanks, Matt. Elizabeth, what about you?
I represent Community College Workforce Alliances, a shared workforce development division between two community colleges. We were different than most higher education in workforce development in the community colleges in that we had a real explosion of enrollment. We specialize in credentials that are non-traditional, so certifications, state issued licenses, all of them tied to high demand occupational fields that are aligned with state and regional economic development research and labor market needs as validated by companies. So, we’re all about these fairly short term, four to 15 week burst, instructional burst of both hard and soft skills. But then we know that we want to really be the first step in a continuum of lifelong skills attainment. And we’re convinced that the answer to doing that is in shorter burst of training, rather for workforce credentials or credit. We’re looking at associate degree programs now in terms of smaller bites.
We’re offering many semesters between traditional academic semesters. We’re ensuring that there are pathways from non-credit workforce credentials that can then provide some college credits towards college certificates and associate degrees and making sure that associate degrees are aligned and articulated with university programs in career and technical education areas where that’s feasible. And then finally, we’re thinking, all right, even if someone follows that trajectory, and we certainly have case studies of students who fare very well with that, we’re convinced that then they need to come back to us. So, we keep up an aggressive, to earn more certifications to keep current in both technical and soft skills proficiencies. So, we keep up a robust communication campaign, social media, email blast, invitations back to micro-learning sessions that are complimentary and the list goes on. We also have a robust state financial assistance program for all of this credentialing.
All of you have spoken to the currency aspect of this, and there’s a great question about whether or not not the skills gaps will have changed by that time and the timeframe and responsiveness being challenging. Does anybody want to speak to that element here, the challenging aspect of responsiveness in a particular timeframe. Matt or Elizabeth?
Oh yeah, I can talk on that. It’s in constant flux. But the good thing here at Eastern Oregon University, we actually have programs to get it to what we call homeostasis, get it stabilized so that we can meet those timelines and do kind of a forward thinking approach. We have a joke here. We think chess players three steps ahead of the flux and the change, always think ahead of the process. So, I’ll put in the chat room when I talk about our microcredentials and credentialing process, our program, so you can look at them and steal. But anyway, so we actually have measures in place to handle that change, especially around credit for prior learning and microcredentials. And so no matter the workforces, it’s changing around us outside of our kind of unit when it comes to us, then we can meet that tech transfer into programs so we can get them into what’s called Reach the Peak or [inaudible 00:15:23].
And our [inaudible 00:15:24] program that we have is now kind of connected with kale and their services, which a national provider for credit for prior learning. And then we kind of dovetail that to dual dual sponsored credit for high school. So, we’re trying to create really an effective efficient degree in three, not three years, three steps, high school community college adjusts. And then we look at credit for prior learning and we kind of pull some of that credit out of the pathway and give them credit for that to bump them and nudge them forward a little bit faster. So, as the flux consistently is in peaks and valleys with us, we’re trying to get that measurement process for the student and the collaboration and the partnership to keep them streamlined and moving forward. We think we’ve got it with the on-campus. The next step is online.
I think there’s two streams here, and I think a lot of the time when we’re thinking about skills gaps and skills, I think all of us are going to programming languages or working on the newest technology or things along those lines. But some of the gap that we’re seeing too is on more human-centered skills like communication, critical thinking, some of these other things that are sort of evergreen for the institution. So, I think there are different opportunities. I think about myself and business education, you learn some of those initial soft skills around leadership. But you’re in your 20s and maybe you don’t really have an opportunity to apply them, but then you come back in your 30s and 40s and 50s, it’s like, wow, I really need to go back and get some more education and think about leadership. Thinking about it now, it’s very different than it was in an earlier part of my career.
Correct. Soft skills are important.
In one of our programs, we actually do portfolio assessment of the soft skills and interviewing skills, skillset sets.
And things like that, that oftentimes are overlooked or have been forgotten because they went to the workforce for a decade, half decade, and they’re trying to enter into higher education or another place, a transition process.
Speaking of transition is a great segue to the key finding number three statement, I think we’ve got great questions going on as well in the chat as a result of these conversations. Thank you everybody.
Yeah, so let’s get into our third finding here around alternative credentials. And I think we were sort of already bleeding into this a little bit. Thinking about educational opportunities maybe below the degree. And so we asked this really interesting stack of questions. This is something that we do as a survey researcher. You see this in political polling and stuff too, where you ask someone, what did your bachelor’s degree do for you? Was it important to your career goals? And a lot of people say, well, yeah, of course it got me where I am today. 80% of people say it was really important to them. But then you start asking further down, you say, well, what about for other people? And what about in the future? And do you think it’s as valuable as it once was? And it sort of tarnishes a little bit.
You get these lower and lower response rates. And so the truth is probably, frankly somewhere in the middle. But there is something out there where folks are saying, hey, maybe people aren’t picking up the skills that I need from bachelor’s level education. I think we hear this attack all the time. So, I think one of the things that’s really important is probably in as much teaching folks the skills they’re going to learn in a program, but also how to talk about them. And I think career services things along lines, how to present what you learned well in your professional life, I think equally ends up being important here. Let’s go to our next step, slide. Kind of a companion to this is one of the things that we asked these HR professionals is the value of a degree, the value of certificates and badges and micro credentials and some of these things.
And so we ask them this in a couple different ways when you say, if someone has five years of work experience, which is what a lot of jobs require these days, sometimes it’s hard to get that five years of work experience, especially out of college. But what we’re seeing is that if someone has maybe a certificate or maybe a badge or a credential or they can show some sort of formal learning in these areas, that there’s almost an equivalency to some of this work experience. And so this was interesting and I think important for some of our new graduates to think about as they’re thinking about their career. Lastly here, this will probably be particularly relevant to Elizabeth too in the work that she does. We asked a battery of questions around, well, what about the other stuff? What about industry certification? What about bootcamps, project portfolios, Badging MOOCs, and some of these other shorter engagements? And we really see a big openness to accepting these as alternatives or as even preferential in some cases to the degree. And so that’s something that’s concerning for me.
We do a lot of investing in universities and university degrees and things along those lines, but it looks like from the employment side, especially in a really tight labor market, they’re interested in finding some of these other credentials as new equivalents. Final thought here, just thinking through the basic fundamental strategies. Obviously there’s a lot more to this. But thinking about what to bolt on to your portfolio, what to add in the flow here is start with looking at those opportunities out there in the market what we are seeing as in terms of gaps? What are we seeing out in the labor market? What are our employers looking for?
Thinking about finding educational opportunities to help students earn these credentials maybe with your degree. So, thinking about maybe you get a project management degree, but then you also find a way to sit for the PMP certification with it. We do that with things like accounting and other degrees all the time, but I think there’s a lot more opportunities for it. Cybersecurity degree, how do you also sit for your CISSP exam and certification as part of your cybersecurity degree? Those sorts of things. And lastly here, trying to remove some of these barriers to things like prior learning credit, some of the things that we were just talking about in that last round.
Thank you. The discussion is lively both here and in the chat. So, we’re capturing as much as we can. I’d like to just remind everybody as well to enter those Q&A and questions into the question answer option at the bottom or in the Zoom system would be wonderful as well. But I want to transition over to Matt as well to comment on this from your own perspective, your own educational pathway and how institutions can better serve, we might call non-traditional pathways and perhaps other labels on students and how those receiving those credits play out in maybe challenging ways through the higher Ed landscape.
So, from my perspective, passion, because I entered the workforce after high school and was a welder and went to community college and took classes at night. And when I finally went into higher ed as a student, they didn’t accept any of my transfer courses. So, as a first gen learner, I became passionate about it. So, when I came here to Eastern Oregon University as a Dean and now in the provost role, I would describe institutions, they move like a pack of turtles through a see of peanut butter. And awesome, which is we also have to move at the speed of trust. So, you combine those two and it gets kind of messy, but we found kind of a gap that we can widen here for shared governance is certification and working with the non-traditional students and analyzing their workforce. So, I shared in the link our April program does that.
We put a heavy analysis on their work background and soft skills and hard skills and all those skill sets, and we try to get them through the pathway at this institution in a way that they’re just not taking courses to take courses. And so we want to honor the fact that our certification pathways are respectfully appreciative of their workforce values and what they bring to the institution. Now, trying to find that happy medium is a challenge oftentimes, but we actually have counselors that do that work for us. And so it makes it more of a streamlined opportunity. And we just brought in a 1.6 million grant, so we’re going to throw some rocket fuel on the concepts and ideas of getting this online. And so we are excited about this opportunity. But at the end of the day day, we really just want to work with the non-traditional or traditional students and consistently find them successful pathways to leave the workforce, come to higher Ed, go to the workforce or make a hybrid model of that.
But along the way, they’re getting certificates that actually have grit and they’re building fidelity through this whole entire process that this certificate isn’t just a paper on a wall, it’s skillsets that they can utilize. And then what we want is we want to put a little greed around that. So, these companies want more and more and more of these employees to hire because they have the skillsets that they’ve acquired through our processes here at Eastern Oregon University. So, it’s a model that can be adopted for other institutions or businesses that we’re continually gaining ground on for narrowing that gap.
So, it sounds like you’re speaking even to the question that was posed by Susan Walcott that maybe we can circle back after a few more key findings around how that effective critical thinking can be embedded in all courses from a comprehensive approach. And I also want to make note of the ongoing conversation around the phrase soft skills, which also find really incredible from effective to human-centered from our evolving landscape that we’re talking about here. So, it’s very relevant to our discussion. So, thank you for that. And then we’re going to jump back to David again for our next key finding. Key finding four.
Yeah, I’ll say it’s funny, we had a lot of internal debate on some of our survey questions, whether you say what are you looking for, softer, hard skills? That sort of thing, just because it’s such a common term and a term that everybody uses, we really wanted to use one of these newer kind of more evolved terms. What do we ended up saying, oh, in clarity we’re going to use soft skill. But yeah, I kind of loaded that term as well. So, the next section here is about unlocking opportunities and removing barriers, things along those lines. So, if we go to the next slide here, we’ve got some data around whether or not companies are partnering with schools to fill their skills gap. And I think this is a big thing, a big part of the conversation here. It was interesting for me to see that fully half of these folks said, yes, we’re sort of actively engaged in this. But then another quarter of them said, we’ve done it maybe in the last three years, maybe we’ve pulled back on it.
And so I think a lot of companies have some austerity measures in the pandemic and kind of pulled it back on HR and training and development. Some of those things are some of the first things to go, I think often when there’s rough seas. But if you look at a graphic like this, you are simply saying 75% or so of the organizations in your backyard are probably looking to partner with you, how many partnerships do you actually have? And so I think putting the investment in to have dedicated folks that go and nurture these relationships, people that can get in there and actually listen, build, react to some of these things is really critical to the opportunity here for you.
Partnerships, I’m sure will ignite a lot of conversation here as well. And I’m really interested in hearing from you, Elizabeth, on what your approaches are to building those partnerships.
One fundamental change since the pandemic, and I don’t think it’s necessarily related to that, but community college workforce development now has a really close partnership with the State’s Economic Development Agency. And we meet as a team with companies that are considering expanding or locating to Virginia. And that’s really substantially informed and transformed the work that we’re doing with micro credentials, with certifications, with licenses, with thinking in terms of skills and pathways and portfolios of credentials that have meaning in the marketplace. For instance, we’ve got pharmaceutical manufacturers that are locating in the region that my division serves, and we have worked with them to develop a continuum of learning experience and credentials that start with high school include bridge programs for adult learners who may be under-skilled and need some kind of developmental work to access workforce or community college credential programs. We’ve got community college degrees now and workforce credentials.
All of them are covered by another asset that’s been developed through an important partnership. And that’s with our own general assembly and a succession of governors who have aligned these high demand occupations, emerging industries with the opportunity for scholarships and for tuition assistance to Virginians of all levels, and in some parts full scholarships for those who are middle class or below in terms of income levels. So, that’s been a type of partnership. But beyond that, in order to get the talent that we’re looking for in technician trades levels, jobs in information technology, and healthcare, and manufacturing, and logistics and other technological fields, we’ve really had to expand our partnerships with community-based organizations. We are a majority minority center. We’re about 60% minority students. About half of our students are on needs-based financial assistance.
And that’s because we’ve been partnering with about 50 community-based organizations, really offering the clients and customers they serve an opportunity to get to living wage jobs, and we can do that through these types of credentials and also through non-traditional routes to higher education credentials such as registered apprenticeships where the apprenticeship related instruction is done through the community colleges. Partnerships are absolutely the foundation of what we’re trying to do in driving these credentials as a way to prepare for the workforce, more residents in our region and more underrepresented residents, those who have not normally been well represented in higher education and who need help need different kinds of programming in order to access living wages.
Sounds both very robust and many of our conversations here are opportunity for expansion and growth. Matt, what about some of those partnerships that you’ve built or seen or observed in terms of this particular finding? Matt?
You cut out. Could you repeat that?
Oh, I’m sorry. I was just asking about your partnerships as well.
Well, our partnerships.
No, it cut out. It said, my Internet’s unstable. Sorry about that. So, we have a lot of partnerships. K-12 in education in Oregon, gets a lot of funding through what’s called the Student Success Act, which is a billion dollars funded through the Boeing. And then they have Measure 98, which is like 300 million for work around a workforce development at the high school level. So, we partner with a lot of education service districts, and we have a lot of good conversations about building that bridge between high school workforce to the institution or just high school workforce and involving any help that we can provide them. A lot of listening goes on and a lot of appreciation for the work that they have in place and finding ways to support them even with our connections through the workforce as well as collaborative opportunities.
And so it’s really nice to develop partnerships also with the community colleges because the community colleges work really well with us. And so when I arrived here, I always said, I don’t want a million dollars, want a million friends. Well be careful what you ask for when you get into the partnering world because everybody wants to partner up with you before you know it, so you can only do so much windshield time. We do a lot of partnering with vocational schools and because Oregon is a big workforce state and they put a lot of money into students who want to go into the vo-tech pathway into the workforce. And so we actually have a program which career in technical education. So, you can actually be in the workforce and go through our program and then go back and be a teacher at a high school to teach welding, to teach HVAC, to teach fire services. And it’s only a 15 credit hour pathway where they get this specialization certification. So, I think we do a fair job of the partnerships and the collaborative piece of working together.
Well, I think it speaks to Rob Gibson’s question here that when he talks about, and maybe something we can circle back also as we kind of move through in these key findings on how that balance can be embedded from supporting a traditional preparation in an involving labor market. How do those other degrees such as humanity degrees still hold value in this particular climate? So, we’ll circle back to that question as well, and I pose that to the group here and pose that question to, I see the conversation also in chat around these areas and how those partnerships can also help that as well. So, David?
Yeah, you kind of caught me looking at the chat here. Just a lively parallel conversation. [inaudible 00:34:15]. That was great. So, one of the other kind of themes here that we were talking about was, I think there was a question in the chat too around how do you actually do this stuff? How do you work with employers to actually get things going? And I think coming to them with an idea of what you want to do and what you have available is probably the best place to start. So, one of the things that we see a lot of folks do is kind of leverage existing tuition reimbursement platforms and say like, hey, I know Boeing is nearby for me and they do full reimbursement, or they reimburse $10,000 a year, whatever it is. So, how do I get in front of those students more often?
We also do see a lot of our partners in particular will say, hey, large bank or financial institution that’s nearby, if you send us more students, we’ll give them a 10% discount off the top. We’re willing to do that as kind of a way to pull them and draw them into the program. But maybe we’re going to do even more than that, and we’re going to look at including you as some of our case studies or things along those lines too. So, I think there’s the initial kind of transactional stuff that happens, but then over time, hopefully they become part of your advisory panel, they become your alumni, and it becomes a lot more of an organic relationship. But I think initially there is probably, you’re going to have to do some couponing, some discounting to be able to draw some folks in and kind of find some of those opportunities.
So, Dennis here, I’d like to hear from you on that conflict or friction between that of industry and education and really that challenge of synchronizing them, which I see the lively chat aligns with the thinking of our participants as well.
So, I think that’s a very complex discussion because I think about it, the industry operates at a certain clock speed, and that clock speed inherently is just faster than the education clock speed, not because the education clock speed would not like to accelerate, as Matt and others have mentioned, they’re doing everything they can to partner with the local employers, partner with the local community colleges, technical development to get them closer to the need and that speed that the industry is moving at. But the reality is, if you think back 10 or 15 years ago, let’s say, on technical skills, you had a release from Microsoft maybe every three years. So, you had time to prepare for it, you had time to get the organization ready for it. Now it’s just continuous release. Amazon changes its software every day. Microsoft is releasing their development platforms every day.
So, the clock just keeps speeding. Plus, many of these organizations over the last year or two during the pandemic accelerated their digital transformation efforts. They went from having to have on-premise type activities and people in their workflow and of a sudden there’s a distributed network that doing digital transformation. And I think part of the problem is not only has the industry sped up and these digital transformations has sped up, but I think employers have not looked at what are the skills within your organization that are adjacent or what are the workers or roles within your organization that are adjacent to some of the skills you’re looking. For instance, in the chat, I see a lot about humanities and other things. For me, I don’t know if you can see my background, but there’s tons of guitars in my background. I find that graduates who have humanities and music degrees make great data visualization experts.
They just think differently. They’re wired differently, they look at patterns differently. So, I think employers need to do a better job of identifying those skills within their organization that they have an inventory because they figure, hey, if this person is filling this role, that’s the only skill they have. Well, the reality is many people fill their free time with learning new skills. They’re constantly on this lifelong learning journey. And there are many people, I’ll give you an example around ChatGPT, I can’t tell you how many people have gotten into ChatGPT and built up that skill without it being anywhere on their resume, or their job performance, or their job role, or their role and responsibility. But people are doing that. So, organizations need to do a better job of identifying, find what these future forward skills are and then inventorying within their organization who might have either those skills already on their own, that they have an inventory or have adjacency skills that can transition over to these newer roles that are being driven by this digital transformation.
And that will help, I don’t want to say slow down the industry clock, but they can fill those needs in the industry clock. And there are a lot of institutions that are doing a great job. I was fortunate to be a dean at the University of Phoenix, work very closely with the Maricopa County Community College system. A lot of what Elizabeth has talked about working with your local employers, what are their needs, getting the curriculum really align with what those industries that are coming in into Phoenix, who are we hiring in? They’re bringing in chip manufacturing and aerospace and all that. So, let’s work with the community colleges and the local institutions to prepare them for those particular roles. And also focus on, I don’t call them soft skills, I call them power skills. What are those things that have a long shelf life?
Technology skills to me are like yogurt, they’re on the shelf, they’ll change. And you can learn those and evolve those over time fairly quickly and just pick those up. But critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, these are skills that you can learn and improve on over time and will last you forever no matter what journey you’re on. So, yes, the industry runs that as faster speed, but employers need to do a better job of identifying what talent they have in their organizations, which ones can actually be, or redeployed, give them stretch assignments. At the end they’ll find that they’ll do a better job of keeping up with that clock and not just having depend on whether you come in through the door.
I think that aligns with even Martiza Mercado’s question, talking about partnerships and how when you do engage in the journey on identifying partnerships, how do you solidify those partnerships? So, maybe we’ll circle back to that hopefully and some of these questions at the end and come back to the panel and just again, painting that seed of thought. Because I see a lot of those questions. I also see some lively discussion around the how, not just the where and the what, but how that’s really critical to this process. So, I’m going to transition briefly to David, and then we’re going to move into some deeper Q&A for the group as a whole.
Yeah, so I think this is a theme that we’ve seen kind of asked a couple of times here that is the demand for these skills sort of too fast to keep up with. And I think that’s a concern that a lot of us have. If we go to the following slide here, I think a lot of you were predicting a slide like this with some of the top in demand skills here. The biggest one from corporations right now, strategic thinking, problem solving, digital communication, a lot of these are those power skills, those human-centered skills that we keep talking about. I think classically, a lot of these are learned just in the process of going through a bachelor’s degree or education. So, it’s like whatever you’re studying, you’re sort of picking up these things, whether it be classics or humanities or engineering. You’re kind of having to build these skills along the way.
What I think is interesting and challenging for folks too is to think about some of these skills can be validated in smaller sorts of engagements. So, I think about one that is really popular in our organization as we have a number of people that are certified as design thinking facilitators. So, these are folks that have learned a methodology and a process to take you through an empathetic user center design experience. And so I think yes, you learn parallel skills in degrees, but I think there are ways that we can validate some of these things in smaller credentials and engage with folks later in their career as well. We go to the following slide here. We did ask, like I said earlier, this dynamic about hard skills, soft skills. We had trade skills in there too, and we had some different definitions for these.
But the idea here is asking, what’s the half-life of these skills? What’s the velocity that these skills kind of age out? And I think you’re right, a lot of the folks on the phone saying that our human-centered skills, our sort of liberal arts skills, if we want to call them that are the ones that kind of carry with you throughout your whole life, but maybe your more technical skills, like your coding skills, some of these technology skills, things along those lines. Maybe they’ve gotten a shorter shelf life and they’re going to be gone a little bit quicker. But either way do you have to engage and rehome these skills throughout your career? And I mentioned this earlier, this idea that what leadership means to you or what project management means to you, maybe in your 20s is going to be very different than it is in your 30s and 40s when you’re maybe directing a larger team or maybe your 40s and 50s when you’re marshaling the resources of an entire organization.
So, I think there are things here that are universal in some ways, but they can still use these refreshers. And that’s why I think a lot of schools are even experimenting with things like free courses for life, come back and audit our MBA courses later in your career. Things along those lines, thinking about certificates that they can sell to folks that are maybe a little bit more mid and late career, really thinking about that 60 year curriculum. I think so often we are focused on short courses, short education for the laddering up opportunity, that community college kind of early career sort of getting you into the market. But I think there’s also a number of students that we find are really excited to go back again and again. And so just thinking about opportunities for them as well.
So much excitement, so much conversation, would love to have you share and continue to share some of the final insights so we can move into that Q&A if you want to.
Yeah, let’s move along. So, we’ll go to the next slide here. So, we recapping key insights, we talked a little bit about some of the challenges that we are seeing from the economy here. If you go to the next slide, we have some suggested actions. And so there’s a lot more of this in the actual report, but I think the first one is engaging with your local employer market. And so we talked a little bit about going out with discounts, kind of drawing in with that strategy. But I think also just having these folks on advisory panels, kind of nurturing your alumni, not just as a donation kind of development strategy, but also thinking about them as long-term kind of resources for you and thinking about calibrating your curriculum to their needs. I think that’s really an important relationship nurturing opportunity that’s there. We talked about employee benefits a little bit, how to maximize some of these things, how to create pathways.
I think looking at your individual courses that are really successful and thinking about those as separate products or thinking about kind of breaking these things down into smaller credentials for a larger audience to bring folks back. Things along those lines is a strategy that we’re seeing out there. This is probably an obvious one, but let’s get those positive career outcomes out on our websites. And I think I go to a lot of school websites or I talk to a lot of professors and they’re really excited about what their students are doing, but I don’t see it. They’re not selling it. And I think that’s a really important thing. Leveraging that asset, being your alumni base I think is really important.
And then the final one here is probably an obvious one because this is all moving so quickly. Expect a fast refresh rate. This isn’t studying the classic square, the textbook can be fine for 10, 15 years without an update. These things are going to be on a lot shorter shelf rate. So, I think building that into the expectation is going to be important. Thinking about, well, maybe 80% remains static, but 20% updates and how do we to evolve models where we can update and meet needs quickly is an important one.
Well, that segues wonderfully into the series of questions and we always welcome more questions, I should say. I wish we had equitable answers to questions, but the numerous questions are also very much welcomed and they’re at abundance. So, I’m actually going to pose this particular question I think that addresses the chat and maybe what you’ve addressed here in some of our final insights and maybe direct this toward you, Matt, specifically. What are the ways in which faculty might be able to embrace the need for skill development and recognition in their course and their syllabi? So, we’re talked about it from an institutional perspective and there are some more specific questions in the chat in terms of faculty role in this progress. Could you speak to that a bit here?
Sure. We’re fortunate enough to have a center for teaching learning and assessment on campus. And what’s connected to that is our Center for Cultural Responsive best practices and our instructional designer. So, they kind of work in hand hand with critical thinking. So, one of the up and coming professional development, I’d say seminars for faculty on this campus will be led by a CTLA, Center for Teaching Learning Assessment. And it’s a critical thinking series and it’s challenging. They get recognition for attending it and they get rewards for attending it too. There’s some financial rewards depending on a grant that we have, but I was always in continuous improvement as a faculty member all the time and always trying to update my online skillsets and my face-to-face skillsets. So, it’s a lot of work, but I found over time, keeping up with that level of work as a faculty member to improve at that level was a lot of external research and studying other people in the field and embracing what others are doing as they develop out their skillsets.
And then also, I’ve used it before, kind of getting it thematically woven through their syllabi and then that syllabi, you actually have a test pilot to see how it goes with the audience that you’re performing in front of. So, I recommend you get out there and study other individuals and practitioners in the field and what they’re doing and how they’re successful. And oftentimes see how you can bring some of those kind of opportunities to your class level and then your class and your syllabi and your textbooks better than anybody. If somebody who wrote 11 textbooks, I eventually abandoned the textbook and I went with OERs, Open Education Resources and that’s where I’d been ever since I had abandoned my own textbooks. And so OERs also enhanced your skillset development. So, I think there’s a lot of opportunity to see some effective models that are out there. And I mean I always use it all the time, continuous improvement.
Well, I think that’s very much the thread I see in the chat as well from our participants, which is how that evolution not just happens, but how we’re attentive to who we’re serving or who we’re working with students and the institution and how to really synthesize that in a way that we’re maximizing the experience but not, I think to some of the questions here, creating obstacles or barriers that might not put them on the right path and for the future of the workforce. So, I think I’d like to open it up to any of our panelists to reflect on some of those earlier questions. One of which was around effective critical thinking across the courses, or more specifically what I’m seeing in terms of the conversation around where that innovation might happen in terms of degree pathways. I welcome our panelists to speak about either one of those and maybe some other insights that you have that connected to our themes today and maybe even some of the chat conversations that are going on.
Yeah, I’ll start out. There was a theme that I think we saw throughout where it’s like the liberal arts degree is dead long live the liberal arts degree, that there’s sort of these concerns about maybe diminished place of some of these degrees that historically were really important and critical. For me, I think there’s a real branding problem, and it’s kind of a tough conversation, but it’s how we talk about some of these degrees I think needs to evolve and I think we need to help folks understand why they’re important. I think there’s a little bit more sales selling of the degree probably needs to happen. I’m talking to a lot of institutions that are doing things, for example, thinking about these as stackable credentials and thinking about packages of classes that are maybe your measurement and evaluation core meets your critical thinking and communication core things along those lines.
And you sort of pick from those areas. And then ultimately with the goal of the student being able to articulate better when they do go to the workforce, why they have these skills in place. We know inherently that, like we said in the chat, the thread here that getting an English degree helps you articulate your thoughts better. But let’s train the students how to be able to communicate that thought better. I think is something where there’s an area of opportunity. So, I’m even seeing some of these get repackaged as interdisciplinary study kind of other new words for them too, even to think about repackaging is some of these ideas.
I think critical thinking is an interesting one because I think it needs to start early in the child’s development, early in school around not spoon-feeding them, but really providing them with opportunities for critical thinking. As you evolve through high school, many schools do a great job of that. As you go through college, many schools teach you a lot about critical thinking. But at the end of the day, it really comes around applying it to the real life situation. So, not teaching a course necessarily on critical thinking, but applying critical thinking principles to all the sort of assignments and projects and things that you’re doing. So, at the academy we teach a lot of different hard skills, but we do it in a way that we’re teaching them critical thinking, communication, project management, collaborating teams, working in agile frameworks. And that’s all part of embedded into the curriculum.
But then we don’t call it out specifically as, oh, you’re learning critical thinking, but we’re evaluating your critical thinking skills as you’re applying these to these assignments and projects you’ll see in the real world. And that sort of continues to evolve. But like David, you said this is a lifelong learning experience. How well you do critical thinking when you’re 19 is much different than how you do critical thinking when you’re 45 or 50. Cause you’ve learned so much more experience to go on. But today’s problems are not solved by trying to solve problems of four or five 10 years ago with the same thought process. You’ve got to apply new things, new thinking, new innovations on solving these problems because it’s constantly evolving. So, you’ve got to learn it. It’s got to be continuous learning, but critical thinking starts early and you have to continue to practice it and apply it in ways that are not just, I took a course on critical thinking, now I’m an expert on critical thinking.
Yeah, I think one of the challenges that we’re facing is in the last 30, 40 years, we culturally for better or worse have moved the obligation of workforce training to the actual workforce. This is something where classically you’d go to work for a company and you’d kind of grow up within it and you’d be trained and sort of evolve along the way. But I think now the expectation is that that employee comes with that skillset. And doesn’t do as much on the job training. And so when you over-index on that, something has to give and I think that’s where the challenge that we’re facing right now. And so it’s like how do you give the people those workforce important skills, maybe the Amazon Web Services or Python or whatever else, but to your point, but also give them critical thinking exercises along the way.
Well, I think this is a great chance to ask Elizabeth and Matt. I mean there was a question that was posed by one of our participants around whether or not there’s a disconnect between maybe higher level members of an organization in education versus those who might be hiring or doing the employment. I think you’re kind of in that position to see whether or not that’s occurring and why that might be occurring. Elizabeth?
Well, the disconnect, I mean, at some point in order to get to a higher level in an organization, probably still the traditional route to that is a baccalaureate degree in many professions, not absolutely the only way, but the traditional way. So, our challenge then becomes most of the students who present themselves to workforce training, they’re looking for a relatively short term goal to get a job or a job with better wages. Now, about 20% of students who enter our community colleges do have a baccalaureate degree, and they’re looking for that. They’re looking for education then to help them make that baccalaureate degree have an economic value in the workforce. And that’s challenging too. So, there’s plenty of challenges, but what we have to figure out is how to create pathways for populations for whom the baccalaureate, as we currently structured it, is not feasible.
I mean, 85% of the students that we’re serving in our workforce credential programs are over the age of 24. It is going to be hard for them to disrupt obligations to family and fiduciary responsibilities to go to university for four to six years. It’s probably not going to happen. Therefore, programs such as we have in place, but certainly not at scale, not at scale, it’s essential to make it possible for an apprentice to earn a baccalaureate degree that is possible. Combine the journeyman’s license with an associate degree, articulate to a university engineering technology or engineering program, have the company provide tuition assistance benefits.
Those are the ways some of our populations are going into baccalaureate degrees and succeeding. It’s very important I think at the community college level, we’re all very well aware of which businesses provide tuition reimbursement and what the process processes for getting it. We just need paid internships that are substantial and lead to employment and scheduling that is manageable for working adults. The demographics are going to force us to change the way people get a baccalaureate if we’re serious about getting more people who may want to get into that higher level, into that higher level of education and management.
It sounds like you’ve identified our next series on reenvisioning the baccalaureate based on the conversations in the chat and some of the statements here. I’m sorry, I think somebody else was going to make a comment that aligns with this conversation here as well. We have about one more minute to-
I’ll just say real quick in the report, we did ask the skills gaps question to sort of a range of folks, and we did it over two different years. And the C-suite leaders kind of saw it coming. Two thirds of them, three quarters of them said, yeah, there’s definitely a skills gap. But the more frontline folks, it took them a while to get on board. So, that is something I think that question on, is there a stratification I think the more kind of leader executive folks are like, yeah, we definitely have a problem here. Whereas I think it took some of the frontline folks a little bit longer.
Plus I think the human resource departments and companies have to get rid of these requirements on job postings that claims start off with must have a baccalaureate degree, which is nonsense because in most cases, credentials and certificates and other associate degrees, et cetera, have prepared them for the job yet they’re not willing to change that requirement. Or they’ll say, I want a college graduate five years experience. Well, if you’re a college graduate who may not have five year experience. So, I’d rather have somebody who has five years experience than maybe doesn’t have a degree who can actually do that. So, the employers and their HR departments have a transformation and a change in mindset to make opportunities more available to people without the traditional degree.
I hate to end the conversation here, but I know that I’m getting the alerts and it’s great that we have such a robust conversation. It’s clearly an indication of a need for more of these opportunities, and I wanted to thank all the panelists for their expertise and experience and sharing here as well as the participants’ willingness to ask questions and to share their insights as well.
Thank you so much Suzanne, and thank you everyone for being part of this conversation. Thank you for the active chat discussion. It was really fun to follow along. So, we’ll just quickly move through the next couple slides. I do want to say if you are new to WCET, please check our website out. We have a lot of events and programs coming up. We have a webcast coming up very, very shortly on finding and providing clarity amidst the array of digital learning definitions and modalities, which I’m sure you’ll all have stuff to contribute. And we have a member only summit coming up on March 9th. And if you’re not a WCET member, if you get your application in by the end of the month, which is right around the corner, then you receive two complimentary registrations. And this is a great program.
Phil Hill is going to kick us off, so you won’t want to miss it. It will be recorded and all registrants will receive access to the recordings. I’d like to quickly acknowledge our sponsors and our WCET supporting members because they make much of this work that we do here at WCET possible. And I wanted to quickly call out our blog, which is not on one of those slides, but we just released some clarification around our understanding of the guidelines released from the Department of Ed regarding working with OPMs and any contracted server service that you may be working with. So, definitely check out our blog, which is WCET Frontiers Blog. So, we hope to see you on another event here soon. Take care everybody, and thank you so much for our panelists and our partner, Wiley. Take care. Bye.