Should employers have a role in regulating colleges?

Skills gap is 'increasingly problematic' for today's students, says report

Employers should push for higher education accreditation reform while also looking into a separate employer-led accreditation plan, according to a new brief from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF). 

The brief cites the skills gap between what college graduates learned in school and what they need to participate in the workforce. While a Gallup survey found 96% of chief academic officers reported students are prepared to begin working, just 35% of students and 11% of business leaders agreed.

"This is increasingly problematic because of the increasing number of nontraditional students who are now entering higher education to improve their career opportunities," the brief states. 

Who is responsible for closing the 'skills gap'?

Using supply chain management lessons, the USCCF suggests two approaches to narrowing the gap: seeking more power in the current accreditation system and proposing an entirely new one.

1. Give employers more power in current accreditation methods.

While the current system is in place, the USCCF proposed the following changes to give employers a stronger role:

  • Give employers more power in governance and program and institutional review;
  • Require accredited institutions to say whether or not career preparation falls within their mission;
  • Require institutions that say career preparation is part of their missions to create employer advisory groups; and
  • Set performance metrics relevant to employers and compel institutions to report on them.

"While employer partnerships in higher education are receiving more attention than ever before, employer input is still largely driven by participation on advisory groups or through customized training projects and industry initiatives to address a major skills gap," the brief reads, adding that outcomes most relevant to employers are often "undervalued." 

2. Create a new, employer-led supplier certification and quality assurance program

The system would be supported by various incentives, such as work-based learning opportunities, tuition assistance, and priority access to jobs. Additionally, it would give leverage to employers to push though the reforms from approach No. 1.

This proposal borrows three main components from supply-chain management:

  • Certification requirements designed to ensure quality;
  • Layers of certification to reflect the different needs of employers; and
  • A recognition system that builds on the certifications.

"This approach would, minimally, require employers to improve how they work together to communicate their competency and credentialing requirements and how they align their performance measures and incentives to support end-to-end talent pipeline performance," the brief states (Stansbury, eCampus News, 3/11). 

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