For the first time in modern history, there are more job openings, 7 million, than there are people available and qualified to take these jobs. It is both a quantitative and qualitative problem.
The reliance employers have had on the traditional “supply chain” to source their talent and fill their job openings — high schools, colleges and universities – is no longer working as well as it might. In fact, according to research by Strada Education Network and Gallup, only 11% of employers believe colleges and universities are doing a good job of preparing people for the workforce.
And students themselves are only slightly more confident. Only about a third of current college students believe they are being well prepared for the workforce. This is indeed unfortunate since the No. 1 reason, by far, that Americans invest in post-high school education is to achieve good career outcomes.
Clearly, the supply chain is broken. Neither employers’ nor education consumers’ expectations of the value of education beyond high school are being met. Our outdated system where educators develop curriculum and deliver education outside the context of real-world work experience no longer works for enough of our employers and job seekers.
It’s time to re-envision a new talent supply chain.
In a recent Strada-Gallup Employer Survey, employers made it clear what they value – and don’t. At the top of the list of things they value in incoming talent are things like work experience, internships, technical and human skills directly related to the work at hand. At the bottom of the list are things like the rank of the school a job applicant attended, the grades they earned, or even the type of degree they pursued.
We also have learned through our Strada-Gallup Education Consumer survey – after talking with thousands of adults who have completed post-high school education – that the more relevant the education is to a student’s career path, the higher the perceived value of that education experience.
So what would this new supply chain look like?
- Employers would collaborate with educators to provide valued advice through mentoring and relationship-building with students beginning in high school and continuing throughout their education and employment.
- Employers would be involved in the design and delivery of curriculum by bringing real-world challenges into the classroom and bringing students into the workplace for internships and apprenticeships.
- Employers would hire students so they could earn and learn at the same time, then build education and training programs around the employees’ interests and attributes as well as the employers’ needs.
Innovative educational institutions around the country are working on these issues right now, engaging with employers in meaningful ways to help students succeed in school and launch their careers. At Paul Quinn College in Plano, Texas, for example, Strada is supporting the nation’s first Urban Work College, where students learn and earn at the same time and employers like MW Logistics, AT&T, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and NTT DATA Services, among many others, are directly involved in the education process, start to finish. Programs like these help students to graduate on time, with minimal debt and a resume that includes classroom study and practical work experience. Employers also benefit through exposure to talent they will be recruiting to fill full-time jobs in the near future.
This work needs to be expanded and accelerated, and never before has it been more critical that employers step up.
We need them to engage in building and strengthening their own talent supply chain to increase the quantity and improve the quality of talent ready to fill millions of jobs. Our students, our businesses and our nation’s economy depend on it.
Strada Education Network® is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving lives by catalyzing more direct and promising pathways between education and employment.
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