Weak Collaboration Between Educators and Employers

Poor communication and collaboration between employers and educational institutions poses a major challenge to closing the skills gap.

For example, a 2018 survey conducted by the Manpower Group found that 46% of U.S. employers struggled to fill open positions during this time. Yet employers don’t appear to prioritize partnering with educators. A 2018 McKinsey report found that only 37% of businesses representing the U.S. and some European countries considered it important to “build partnerships with educational institutions for effective retraining.”

As automation and AI replace and transform jobs, employers and educators must work together closely to ensure students (future workers) are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills.

@jessica_brown, @plazuczek, I wonder what your thoughts on this are? To what extent is this problem already being addressed by both the public and private sector? Why are those solutions falling short?

In the Netherlands, the government subsidizes something called Learning and Working, which are regional cooperatives between schools, employers, local governments and the government employment agency to help people find jobs and gain skills.

There is also an experiment running allowing some non-university colleges (which are in between trade schools and universities, and train students for management-level positions) to deviate from the national curriculum to better meet the needs of students and employers.

@hdennard, @Ashleykae, @Diane_Tavenner, we’d love to get your perspective on this issue. Specifically if you’re aware of initiatives or innovations that improve collaboration between employers and schools?

Thanks for raising the issue. I am not aware of initiatives that promote collaboration between employers and schools, specifically K-12 schools. This is unfortunate, because there is a strong opportunity for K-12 school to redesign based upon inputs from employers. One challenge I experience is that employers often struggle to articulate the skills they value and are looking for beyond generalities or discrete job/technical knowledge. That leaves us to make actionable the skills and knowledge we understand to be needed by employers, and to map that to what colleges want in order to keep as many doors open as possible for our graduates.

I do believe there are efforts for higher ed and employers to collaborate, although, I’m not sure if it is systematic. For example, I believe there was some collaboration between ASU and HP along these lines, but that could just be rumor.

This reminds me of the discussions we had under How do we teach soft skills? - employers complain schools aren’t teaching students the skills they need from workers, yet employers are having a hard time defining those skills.

Maybe that’s a potential breakthrough, @Roey and @jordangiali? Defining (soft) skills. That could then open the door to effective collaboration between employers and educators.

@jayeespy, I’d appreciate your insight on this question as well!

Gee, Nick, thanks for adding me to the discussion. What do you see in Spain?

I often speak with companies interested in partnering with schools about soft skills in student candidates. They want to know the level or proficiency and how comfortable they are interpersonally.

The best professionals embed soft skills into their jobs everyday and help develop those skills in junior staff. When I attended the first Faculty in Residence at Google in 2017, the SMEs shared their thoughts on this topic. They were clear — collaboration, communication, problem-solving, team-work, and other attributes are valued in the workplace and would determine overall career success. Those skills, like the hard, technical skills, need to be continuously developed.

The better secondary schools embed these abilities into the curriculum and make it a recurring practice for students, the more comfortable students are executing the practices. Jobs for America’s Grads (JAG), a high school program, is great at this. There is also an opportunity for us professionals to mentor students so they feel prepared. Let’s take on the challenge and help one more student be successful!

I’m not sure how forward-looking the Spanish education system is in this sense.

I don’t know about personal/soft skills, but I do know Spanish schools have been slow to adapt to a changing economy and aren’t educating pupils well in IT skills. It is why tech companies here in Barcelona are hiring workers from Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, etc.

We recently spoke to someone from Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), an organization that’s doing excellent work to help define and measure soft skills. I encourage everyone to look into their research.

J-WEL at MIT recently released a Human Skills Matrix which distills 24 essential, durable human/soft skills that all workers will need to be successful in the future. They also put together a workshop template that employers and educators can use to help teach these skills to all types of learners.

Southern New Hampshire University and Google recently collaborated to develop the Future Employment Assessment Tool which can be used to objectively measure soft skills and connect young people to gainful employment opportunities.

Can anyone add to this list? What companies/organizations are doing the best work on teaching and measuring soft skills?

@sahashim, @Mona2070, @lmetcalf, @Harlan, can you help us answer that question?