The State of the Skills Gap: Connecting Education with Career Outcomes

May 26, 2021 04:13 · 10602 words · 50 minute read

thank you so much for joining us for our webcast today the state of the skills gap connecting education with career outcomes my name is kim nawrocki coordinator for events and programs at wcet as we go through today if you have any questions please enter them into the question box and we’ll get the get to them during the q a portion sometimes if you put them in chat we do lose track of them so please be sure to use the q a box at the bottom of your screen we are recording and we’ll share that with you by the end of the week we’ll post a link to the slides so you can download those if you like and you can help follow our twitter back channel using the hashtag wcet webcast today’s webcast is hosted in partnership with our friends at wiley education services um they introduce us to today’s panelists and we are grateful for their partnership and support i also want to acknowledge our sponsor vitac for making caption-captioning available during the webcast you can access those if you’re interested again if you have any questions enter them into the q a and we’ll get to those when it’s time i’d like to introduce you to our moderator for today’s webcast who is probably a familiar face if you’ve been to other wcet events um megan raymond wcet’s senior director of programs and membership over here everybody thank you kim and thank you everyone for being here today we really appreciate the participation and we look forward to the discussion and then the q a towards the end so if this is your first wcet webcast we’re so glad to have you here and if you’re a familiar face it’s also good to see you too i am the senior director of programs and membership and i’ve been with wcet i’m just coming up on my 14th anniversary so it’s hard to believe it’s been such a long and fun journey but the best part of my job is that i get to connect with really smart people doing amazing work across the country and we even have members in australia and canada so globally i get to connect with really smart people we have several of those people on with us today and they’d like to go ahead and call on them to do a self-introduction we’ll start with dr marc austin the executive director of professional education and he’s with mason university excuse me marc yeah thank you i really appreciate uh spending time with you today i’m marc austin executive director for um academic innovation and new ventures at george mason and i oversee a number of different areas in particular continuing professional education excellent and dr deb volzer senior director of state and workforce development at wiley hi everybody i’m excited to be here today i’ve worked with wiley and our engagement with state and workforce agencies across the country excellent and david yeah hi uh david capranos i’m our director of market strategy and research what i really like about my job is partnering with institutions governments other actors to help design and deploy their their learning strategies excellent and mardy have you made it back to make an appearance yet i’m here if you guys can see me excellent yes so thank you i’m uh dr mardy leathers i am the director of workforce development for the state of missouri really glad to be here and to be a part of the conversation today excellent thank you well deb let’s go ahead and have you kick it off sure well thank you megan for getting us all introduced and we’re excited to discuss our findings on the current state of the skills gap and its impact on corporations critical business goals but before we start uh just to provide you a little context in case you aren’t familiar with wiley we are a 200 year old family-owned company who has remained dedicated to supporting education and research bringing to bear our expertise and working collaboratively with our employer and education partners as a bridge to create better workforce outcomes to unlock human potential through the power of education so what i’m excited to present on today is the methodology of our most recent uh research study and this is the third of uh our three projects uh but before i begin one of the things that i want to make sure that we do is that we make sure that we’re using the same definition to the term skills gap uh the findings that david and i will be presenting today are based on the definition that the skills gap is skills employers seek that do not match with the skills that current job seekers possess so with that definition in mind let’s uh get started so is there evidence that a skills gap exists and that that gap continues to widen for this research project and this survey sample like we did in 2018 and 2019 we surveyed 600 u.

s full-time hr and learning development leaders who have decision-making authority to determine if the skills gap uh is meaningful to them the breakdown of response rates included a 15 engagement from c level or executive level the larger majority of respondents about 60 percent were senior managerial or supervisory levels and remaining remaining 26 percent are employees with no supervisory responsibilities and for this past research it was really important for us to gain a deeper understanding of how the different constituents within the corporate structure are perceiving and responding to the skills gap their understanding of the role of education how education benefits mitigate the skills gap and at what level if any uh companies are incorporating education and training as part of their strategic plan so let’s talk about who we engaged company respondents were from a diverse range of industry sectors and in fact we broke them down into 12 categories and they ranged from technology education financial services and insurance healthcare retail manufacturing and of these industry sectors the technology sector provided the most response rate and they comprised about 25 percent with the other industries uh hovering somewhere between two and ten percent the those sectors with the lowest response rate were hospitality telecommunications and non-profit also we should note the company size so 59 of the company respondents came from companies employing fewer than a thousand up to ten thousand employees 28 were from companies with 10 000 to 50 000 employees and 12 percent of respondents came from companies with more than 50 000 employees so david’s going to go into more detail in just a minute but we can tell you with great confidence what hasn’t changed over the past three research projects that is that there is the belief that the skills gap is real and the companies believe this gap is impacting their hiring process and their talent mobility within the organization and what i can also tell you with confidence is that companies are shifting and somewhat significantly the types of education used for hiring and training to upskill reskill and right skill their incumbent workforce and this is why we’re really excited to have this conversation today and bring experts like mardy and marc into the discussion but before we engage mardy and marc uh i’m going to turn it over to my colleague david to discuss a few of our key findings from the recent research yeah thanks for that deb um so we uh like deb said you know like part of what we’re doing is trying to get into these organizations and understand a little bit about what their needs are and how they’re addressing those needs and so one of the first questions we asked are what are the skills that are most in demand and obviously this is aggregated data so for a given profession or something you’re going to have different skills but but at a broad scale these are sort of the most in demand skills and what we tried to do is um group them by hard skill and soft skill and part of the reason we did that was um you know what we’re finding more and more is these hard skills have a really short kind of half-life to them whereas the soft skills can carry you through your entire career so understanding refresh rates and the need for upskilling and things like that is part of the reason why we we separate these two groups out you probably find some unsurprising things here you know that that data skills computer technology skills skills like that are going to be really high in demand sore critical thinking communication and creativity on on the soft skill side it was interesting for us to slice through some of this data and find um different uh kind of levels uh within the organization like deb mentioned uh we we asked a lot of c-suite folks what they thought the most in demand skill or what the hardest skill was uh for them to fill and it was creativity so there’s some some variance between you know where you are in the org and what you uh you know are looking to to pick up but generally speaking these are sort of the more in demand type skills megan if we can go to the next slide um getting a little bit a layer deeper into the data one of the things that we wanted to understand was um how are attitudes changing over time around uh different ways of evaluating those skills right so how do you as an employer evaluate whether a potential employee has that communication skill that creativity skill or maybe that you know kind of hard technical skill that you’re looking for and um unsurprisingly we find that the degree is still king right it’s not unseated we’re still largely looking at uh you know the degree being sort of the coin of the realm to be able to uh you know demonstrate that you’ve got these skills but what’s interesting to us is just the um the real acceleration towards more acceptance of um you know industry certifications and digital badges and some of these other kind of uh micro credentials you know that that we offer that are that are below the degree and sometimes even below the credit hour um we also think that or we also found that when we looked at how effective the different learning techniques were um similarly uh the uh the companies are saying hey you know like go to the university we’ll do we’ll give you tuition reimbursement we’ll give you maybe a discount at a university that’s a good place for you to go and do your learning um but as you go down that list they’re almost equally as interested in boot camps and alternative types of of ways of learning these apprenticeships things along those lines on the job training you know increasingly getting more interest and i think that’s something that that mardy will likely talk a lot about um too so if we go to the next slide here megan uh the last thing that we wanted to to share with you today and this is a big report there’s a lot of different data points within it but um you know we started off talking a little bit about uh what kind of skills are in demand and then where they’re getting those skills but the last section here uh is where we were really focused is where the opportunities to connect and kind of you know be a multiplier in here and so one of the things that we wanted to point out was only about a third of uh the places that we surveyed were actively working with university uh to try to get these skills so there’s an acknowledgement of yeah we’ve got a tuition reimbursement program maybe we bring in some outreach outside training here there but we’re really not partnering as much as we probably could directly with a local learning institution to get the skills that we need to get to establish that pipeline um and then second to that the other side of the page something that was really interesting to us was just the low rates of of usage on some of these benefits right so you’ve essentially got free money sitting there you know oftentimes five six thousand dollars a year for you to go and do some learning and um very few companies uh had more than 10 of their staff taking advantage of that right so really sort of low levels so um for us what we see is just a lot of opportunity on this page um to really boost those levels like let’s let’s use some of that those dollars and let’s get more partnerships established where we can uh really really find those connection points and get some of these skills to these folks excellent well thank you so much for sharing that information and insights and as you can see in the chat there’s a link to the full report there and i really enjoyed looking at it i thought it was just enough deep data and insights without being too overwhelming so you could really grab onto some key points and takeaways so question to you marc how well do we in higher education actually understand the skills that employers are seeking and how do we get better signals from employers and the labor market yeah no thank you i think that’s a great question i thought this report was also very interesting i think the skills gap has only only gotten greater and so being able to work with employers to understand what those skills are how are they defined what are the jobs associated to those skills um really help as a university align our curriculum to the changes in the marketplace um so it it’s it’s a challenge i’m not gonna you know i’m not gonna sugarcoat it it’s there’s it’s a difficult thing to do let me explain a little bit about why i think it’s hard to do but sometimes it’s difficult to get a single employer to say okay here are the skills that i need let me line them up for you um and then you look at industry and then it becomes even more difficult because industry has to agree on the skills that they need and definitions um so one thing that we’ve done at george mason that has proven really really useful is working more directly with employers through industry associations aggregations of employers one of those is the greater washington partnership and they’ve been fantastic at doing something that very few companies industries uh and others around the greater washington area do they’ve sat down to provide a list of knowledge skills and abilities ksas that’s how federal government but a lot of employers hire people with that knowledge we’ve been able to then align a lot of our curriculum in critical areas specifically in technical areas but i’ll get back to that later because it’s certainly the soft skills or what we call essential skills are important too but to be able to understand and get that picture holistically from one employer much less many employers on what the signal is what is the critical knowledge skills and abilities helps us to make what we do more transparent to the learner and ultimately more transparent to the employer and that skills transparency exercise that were underway with i think is really valuable as an example of working really closely with employers listening to what they have to say and making sure that there’s some alignment between the needs in the labor market and what we do as a university it helps it benefits everyone from faculty to student to employer excellent thank you marc and mardy you bring in the very critical perspective of the workforce at a state agency so what do you see as the key role of a state agency like the missouri state workforce development board in bridging the skills gap between education and employers and workforce thanks megan yeah for us you know this report was it was extremely intriguing and i love seeing some of the data and seeing how the data uh is updated because this data has to be refreshed on a pretty routine basis i think that’s what you know kudos to this team for pulling that report together because even 12 months ago if we were looking at data it’s outdated and so this is data that we really need to have some because you know the social contract with work is changing and yes the pandemic has accelerated what was already happening before the pandemic but state agencies like ours you know we we work at the nexus of education and employment right our whole job is to connect those two things together and to really focus on how do we help our citizens access sustainable employment and you know which leads to things like family sustaining wages and a life of dignity uh and economic prosperity so certainly education and training have to be part of that equation as does understanding the needs and aligning the needs of our employers to the skill sets that are either that our current workforce has or what they aspire to have now the challenge we is really interesting right now is as that social contract with work is being rethought by so many uh workers whether you’re an incumbent worker or you’ve been unemployed um you know this this new focus is is thinking about i was okay in this job maybe for a decade but now i’m no longer comfortable in this job or you know i was content with my associates degree being you know in a supervisory role but now i really understand i need to move forward because that’s not sustainable the pandemic taught me a lot or you know what life’s too short so i’m going to retire um because maybe i stuck around a little longer than than before so now it creates this gap where all of our middle managers are moving up and we have an entry level gap skills have to deal with all of that right so what skills do we need on the top end and the bottom and middle end to make sure that we can help that that natural um cycle occur in our workforce system and so that’s what we’re thinking about all the time and it’s that alignment i love the talk about micro credentials i love the talk about industry recognized credentials which is you know a federal term that we use to say that these are things that uh the federal government says we can use our money on but also that employers have agreed to take you know we spend a lot of energy and apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs all registered programs and we spend a lot of time on you know associates degrees and baccalaureate degrees and and postgrad degrees helping missourians get on a path and understanding is also not linear it’s not i graduate high school at 18 and then i go to maybe a two year and then a four year and then i get my master’s degree but maybe i’m 24 i’m 29 or i’m 36 and now i’m coming back into school because i want to finish out my degree or i want to move to another career and so those are the things that we’re thinking about that we have to navigate really from age 16 up to age 65 helping individuals navigate um the workforce through accessing more skills and you know i saw a question here about linkedin uh and linkedin learning and as you know and dr volzer gave a good response you know employers that we talk to they want to see that stuff that helps you stand out but that’s not going to make you hireable and then the one thing we have to think about when we think about education and training and certifications there’s the what makes you hireable and there’s the what helps you be promoted and recruited and moved up and you know the job market is very much about relationships still and the higher you get um in the uh in the skills game the more likely you are to be recruited for a position than to be able to apply coldly right so that’s when those things really come into play when you’re wanting to move up in an organization or make a move to another organization as a promotion because you’ve either been recruited or you have a relationship there that you can leverage excellent thank you david on one of the slides maybe kim can take us back a couple slides to the point about what employers value when they’re looking at they’re doing a higher so david talk about how employers are requesting more responsive and agile programs including certifications and micro credentials but they still highly favor traditional degrees and i’m wondering if any of your analysis uncovered some of those anecdotes about that disconnect yeah it was it was interesting to see for us because we um because we had this data we were able to like run some pivots on it and you really saw this difference between how sort of the the c-suite and the executive leadership thought about some of this stuff and then how maybe more frontline folks did and and with with both groups there was an acknowledgement of um you know a skills gap but obviously the um sort of high level folks saw much more much more of a problem with it right they’re much more of a challenge and it was interesting for me to see that like their number one strategy was well we’ll just hire folks in right so so if we’ve got a if we’ve got a problem in our organization you just hire new talent and rather than build right like their first thought is higher in new um and so the question for me is always like we’ve already got staff you’ve already got people that know your systems you’ve already got people that um you know have loyalty and and are physically close to you or whatever you know a number of different things that and and why not grow them right not why not build them is something that i think wasn’t necessarily always their first priority um and i really think these sorts of smaller educational opportunities can be the thing that gets you almost like a finishing school right like you’ve already got your bachelor’s degree maybe even have your master’s degree but but the the market sort of has drifted over the time like mardy said maybe that credential is not fresh anymore uh maybe it’s a technology that has a really short half-life how do we sort of get folks to move along and progress in their career i think is um a big part of where i see like the opportunity here excellent thanks and deb is the primary author of the reimagining the workforce report what’s the most significant point higher education leaders should take away what can they be responsive about now to help bridge learners skills and employment well i think david just um mentioned that and dr leathers uh you know specifically identified it as a lifelong learning so knowing that the uh the skills that you have because technology is continually advancing and changing and because we have uh companies who are continually pivoting and bringing in uh either new technologies or new processes to maximize their efforts we have to continue to educate and uh advance learning within and outside of that corporation and within and outside of our academic partners so i think there needs to be a much better dialogue between what employers say they need and then list on job descriptions and truly what can be delivered delivered in just in time learning are there ways that we can bring back uh alumni from our institutions and help them advance and gain the right kind of skills that they need to move up within the organization um and most specifically how do we identify uh those individuals in our communities who are um uh kind of stunted because of their lack of skills and be able to engage them put them on a path uh that in that allows them as either a working adult or an unemployed adult to find the right kind of program delivered in the right way with the right supporting services to ensure that they can complete and attain those skills and quickly get back into the workforce one of the things that i found most interesting during the pandemic and talking to several of our academic partners uh is that they had individuals who were coming back who were highly qualified but maybe lost their job due to the pandemic and were coming back and getting um a type of certification that would allow them to quickly get back into the market that may be that they’re going back from uh having a bachelor’s degree and securing a certification from one of the local community colleges or it may be someone who has a baccalaureate degree who’s or a master’s degree who’s coming back in for a master’s certification that helps them pivot into new and open roles so i think one of it is really understanding the needs of your uh your your immediate community your regional community and you know across a state what are the skills that employers are seeking and how can you help uh individuals engage in a more timely manner uh to gain those skills and marc this next question leads from deb’s points but often graduates have great skills and they’re in demand but they just don’t know how to articulate how those skills translate and apply how can we in higher education help learners identify and highlight those skills yeah i think it’s so important um just to before i answer that question do you want to come back to the a a comment that i’ve seen across some of the chat in general is it degrees or is it micro credentials the answer is both um you need both they’re both indicators of performance and skill and ability um that employers use as signals and we are in a world of lifelong learning and so a university or higher ed institution community college should never just be seen as a place you come to once spend a couple years and go off you really should come back and continually retool up skill retrain uh and and use the the resources that universities and community colleges can provide to help you continue uh your career career isn’t usually done after just one degree so it’s your question around how to make skills specifically more visible this is a really important part of our discussion first off skills are difficult to define people don’t always agree on the definition of the skill and i think what’s really challenging for an undergrad in particular so i’ll come back to maybe the degree holder but for the undergrad what do you do you go through your college experience and you take some courses and you get a grade and maybe you get some credits and when you’re done you get a transcript and a degree um and how do you use that transcript to get a job well not all employers ask you for a transcript some do but you’d look back at your transcript and say gee i don’t really remember what that course was all about or gosh what did that course contain that was valuable for me to explain to an employer so one of the areas that a lot of us are working on in higher education not just mason is to map skills and align those skills to courses because we know that the faculty are busy building great courses that are designed to train uh and develop people for future for their futures and for the future of the country but they don’t necessarily explain specifically what skills you just acquired as a result of taking my course so at mason we’re not only mapping skills but we’re also building a concept called the skills transcript that is designed to highlight to a student uh not only you know the grade and credits and other things but the skills that they acquired um in their major this turns out to be a really helpful tool for helping students decide on which major they want because it relates to a certain set of skills that relate to a certain job but it ultimately provides them with a tool no matter where they are in their educational process that allows them to articulate what did i get in this course what’s the hard return on my investment in form of skills and the most important thing to prepare them for the interview uh because when they walk into the interview maybe they’ve got a resume that says here’s a skill project management what what did what did that project management skill me how did i learn that skill and so they’re at a disadvantage when they walk into an interview and they say uh yeah i took a course and it involved project management that’s it and they’re in and that’s the end they don’t really demonstrate that they understand what it took to build the skills and competencies associated to project management so that they can get that job so we really believe that the process of skills mapping and creating that road map that leads to a transcript is an important way to make skills more transparent to both the student and to the employer and interestingly i think it’s very helpful for faculty to see uh what skills are contained within their courses it doesn’t change their course necessarily but it certainly helps them lift out the the skills that they’re already providing so that’s that’s part of that skills transparency uh model that we’re trying to build yeah excellent and i’d love to learn more about that so i’ll be following up mardy this is a question for you there there’s growing momentum and there’s some really effective apprenticeships in uh in process right now how can higher education identify partners and some pointers on effective implementation yeah absolutely yeah there’s a lot of energy around apprenticeships i’m certainly extremely passionate about apprenticeship programs and i know we think of you know apprenticeship programs as maybe kind of the you know the older model where it was really just our skilled trades and it was about articulation agreements between our you know uh labor management organizations and predominantly community colleges but also some universities to you know articulate back um you know a complete apprentices to receive um some certifications or even degrees but the models really changed quite a bit in the last uh six years missouri has been really aggressive and very successful in modernizing and expanding apprenticeships we’re very intentional about saying modernizing and expanding because while we still follow a registered apprenticeship model meaning an apprenticeship is an apprenticeship and not um you know anything else you know it has to hit those those requirements for instance if you’re an apprentice you’re employed day one bottom line so you can’t be an apprentice if you’re not employed that’s really important because a lot of uh the job seekers that that we work with you know are coming to us they they need to you know earn and learn model they can’t they aren’t in a position where they just go to school so apprenticeship affords that and offers that opportunity to be working but also learning those programs have to be at least 12 months long or 2080 hours of on-the-job learning and 144 hours of what’s called related training and instruction guess who has to deliver that related training and instruction which is a requirement of an apprenticeship it has to be our colleges or universities yes it can be third-party providers but i can tell you in missouri we lean heavily on our community colleges and our universities to do that now i come from community college background and i help design become it’s probably going to be an arrogant statement i don’t need to be that way but i helped design the first community college system um apprenticeship certification program in the country about six years ago missouri community college association put that together and we did that because we wanted to have common framework and common curriculum across our 13 community colleges that would serve advanced manufacturing construction um you know i.

t healthcare etc and develop these um you know recognize apprenticeship programs that that you know you could take across the state that model was important because it put education at the center so education had to sit down and i love the chat we’re having great talks about how you engage employers and you know employers need to tell us what they need and we all know they can’t do that very well they don’t understand it you know it really flips the model from where you’re not just a training provider or an educator but now you’re a consultant right your solutions architect you have to sit down with that employer and help them do the skills inventory help them determine what their needs are and then you can design an apprenticeship program which by the way we have 60 000 standards out there nationwide you just pull out of a database and you make some tweaks right and the curriculum is already built for you so education has to play that role but where education has to get out of it out of its current comfort zone is understanding that you have to be consultants you’re going to have to go out to the employer and sit down side by side with the employer and help them understand what their needs are because they can’t articulate that they just know they’re not getting what they think they need but they don’t know how to say what they need apprenticeships are one way not a silver bullet but one way in which that creates that partnership and now we’ve expanded into pre-apprenticeship programs which again it’s not a pre-apprenticeship if it’s not directly connected to a fully registered apprenticeship program to say there’s a lot of people who aren’t qualifying you know we talk to employers that say you know what we can’t hire them because they’re not ready yet or they’re not going to be successful in this registered apprenticeship because they’re not ready yet so now we’re able to do kind of that outer layer right you know those uh those vectors if you will to help uh you know citizens who don’t qualify for apprenticeship now or can’t be successful in apprenticeship but instead of just casting them off and sitting them somewhere else now we’re saying listen let’s get you into a pre-apprenticeship program which will help you prepare and help you be more successful and guess who’s at the forefront of that it has to be education so um you know at the end of the day those partnerships and education be able to figure out and understand what business needs and helping business understand what business needs is incredibly important apprenticeships are a great model to do that but you have to think of yourselves as consultants uh solutions architects whatever buzzword you want to use but it’s about sitting down and working with them to understand because um pulling out the course catalog and the course schedule and saying here’s what we offer and here’s what is in the degree and sorry if you can’t you know you gotta wait eight weeks to start or sorry if you know that class is only offered once a semester every decade you know that that’s not gonna work it really is that customized solution of sitting down and working with them and you know that can lead to a degree path which can be more formalized but it’s it’s the entry and the access and the starting point that makes the difference i wanted to piggyback on this a little bit um you know it’s interesting in our data we found that something like one out of six employers allowed tuition as a benefit tuition reimbursement that sort of thing right when you got started right usually they want you to wait six months or a year or something and really kind of prove yourself before you start learning and you know it’s really interesting to think about mardy like you were saying this like learn you know learn and earn kind of model i think a lot of the time when we think of an apprenticeship we’re thinking about a you know really highly skilled kind of role right you know something um you know maybe a trade or or something along those lines but i think there’s also an opportunity for um this to really help the unskilled market too right so there’s you know we’ve seen some of the early examples of this with uh you know um amazon and starbucks doing different models out there where their frontline employees as soon as you get in if you can work 20 hours a week 25 hours a week we’ll give you you know that five six thousand dollars a year towards your bachelor completer or whatever it ends up being and i think there’s a lot of creative models out there that are possible uh under this larger umbrella of learn and earn i love that phrase excellent well i had a few more questions but the volume of questions in the q a is quickly snowballing and we did we did inventory people when they registered to see if they had questions so i’d like to propose that we try and get through the questions that are in the q a and then we can follow up on those separately but there’s there’s a lot that we want to get into and i i too wanted to address this question that has gotten the most upvotes in this conversation we didn’t have a lot of time to dive into you know the whole student and the whole learner but there the question from bernard is is there an implicit notion in this discussion that maybe degrees don’t matter is it more certificate selected companies etc and then and the other flip side of that is why so much focus on these credentials you know are we just trying to teach learners to learn i don’t know who wants to take that yeah let me let me take that for for starters um it depends on the study that you look at and you’re looking at a skill study but there’s also earnings studies um those who receive degrees uh versus those who receive just a diploma there’s not a lot of data on micro credentials yet uh will earn on average and that’s a big average about a million dollars more in their lifetime uh that’s historical uh historically true and um i imagine that that will change the gap between the diploma holder slash micro credential holder could ultimately change it’s hard to say one of the other interesting pieces of data that we’ve looked at um pretty hard is that many if not most of the micro formal micro credential holders and boy there’s a lot of micro credentials out there um are generally degree holders um so that that you know i’m sure that will also change um but what that sort of evokes is it’s an and uh uh it’s not an either or question that degrees are critically important i think for for many uh that micro credentials are in many respects in my mind the way we’ve thought about it is smaller units of learning that are more digestible over time um that either ramp you in to a degree um sort of the on-ramp into a degree or importantly an off-ramp um if you haven’t been able to complete a degree a micro credential can be awfully handy as something of value for the time that you’ve spent in a higher education institution or elsewhere and then there’s the lifelong learner who already has a degree or maybe didn’t complete that needs to advance and a smaller unit of learning that is more targeted around skills that are in demand literally backed by an employer is highly valuable um it’s not just the university and the brand that’s associated to micro credential that shows equality um but also a willingness of employer to say yes i would like to hire that person who has that micro credential uh that fills a skill gap that’s critical to us um that’s a that’s super valuable for the worker that’s super valuable for the employer and i think ultimately improves sort of national productivity so i think it’s a both it’s not in either or mark we um we do a lot of surveying directly of students too like this one obviously was more focused on employers and sort of the hr back office you know kind of stuff but when we ask students you know um how do you want to engage with your university moving forward a really large amount of them tell them i want to go back you know i’m really excited to go back and get it and i think there’s a lot of the time there’s just no product there for them to engage in right it’s you don’t want to come back for two years and forty thousand dollars they want to come back for a couple of months and a couple thousand dollars right something that’s going to be within their tuition reimbursement that sort of thing and so i think having those things available for them just from the purely there’s demand for it side is important to remember too outside of the fact of whether or not employers find these things useful the students want to do it people want to do it people want to want to learn right it becomes this binary decision either a big investment of time and money or nothing it shouldn’t be it shouldn’t be that it it ultimately should be um i can spend a certain amount of time and you know what i’m technical but i don’t know if i’m technical enough to make it to a master’s degree in cyber security engineering so maybe if i took a micro credential to test out my abilities and skills in cyber that could eventually lead to a master’s degree it’s a great way to test whether or not it’s a good use of my time and energy so i i agree it’s uh that is missing and i we hear the same thing from students more relevance more direct applicability more experience um and something that passed me towards a degree that may take me a while to earn but gives me an immediate return not just a deferred return yeah there’s also the earned admissions part of this too with not really today’s conversation but but some of these mooc to credit pathways some of these like certificate to credit pathways i think it really opens up for folks that maybe took a meandering path in their undergrad and maybe don’t have the best gpa you know but they they’ve got a lot of work experience and they’re you know they’re really ready to get to the next level and i’ve been in the military i should be able to convert that experience to something that’s that’s relevant to what you do completely and i would say from the employer’s standpoint you know one of the things that we were talking about or a question that was asked are uh what’s the relevancy of um a four-year degree uh where’s the pushback we do have just in our engagement with uh corporations many corporations who are looking at what skill sets can be hired against that don’t require a four-year degree and can i more quickly bring in a qualified worker and then put them on a path using um you know tuition assistance to help you know create those career pathways within so i think you’ve seen with um i think david you brought it up uh you know amazon being one that’s hiring you don’t need a college degree let’s get you in the door and then let’s figure out a way to put you on a pathway for talent mobility within the organization so i think that is something that we need to be really cognizant about from the perspective of the higher education space how do we best support uh and deliver the right time type of programs in in the way that’s meaningful for uh employees so that’s one thing that i think is uh really important and i think we also have to take into consideration there are kind of two different philosophies for how corporations use tuition assistance one is um at david as you said bringing in uh front line employee and keeping them retaining them for a longer period of time because you can use benefits so that they can secure a meaningful degree for them so that’s one philanthropic way of doing it the other one is the business imperative standpoint of corporations understanding who do we need to attract with what type of skills what is the right kind of additional training and degree programs do we need to make sure that we can fill um you know positions within our own organization the problem that we’re seeing is that many corporations even though they offer these tuition assistance haven’t curated the programs appropriately and they haven’t marketed them appropriately uh within the organization so you have a very uh low um engagement rate from employees where i do think uh that that’s where we’re not seeing these being as effective as they could be and then the last point um that i would say is uh i can’t remember marc it may have been you that uh mentioned this uh having that ability to transcript education or training and um and using that as currency toward a degree uh the more interoperable that we can make those uh that that currency of transfer the better off we are going to be as an education community and there was a question in the chat and some conversation around using the open skills network and the framework of acro so i don’t know marc if you’re using those frameworks to map skills we’re connected to the open skills network um we haven’t gotten quite as um attached to the framework yet but that’s certainly something that we we plan to do as the framework evolves um it takes it takes a lot to build these frameworks that’s for sure yeah i’m going to just drop the link into chat so that we have it there for people and then you know there’s a few of these questions that i think could be webcast on their own including do higher degrees really guarantee a greater career so we’re going to just table that for another discussion but that’s a great question and i think we all have passionate feelings about it i do want to jump into um how and david i think this you touched on this a little bit but how do hard communication skills different differ from hard soft skills right so around communications around communication and sort of how they’re um how they’re different or so yeah i think someone might be referencing there was an early earlier slide there that said communication is like a hard communication skill essentially that’s writing right for for a lot of it is is sort of the um demonstrable sort of communication skills that you might have that you can sort of like prove in a really easy way um communication is interesting though because it pops up a lot on the other side on sort of the soft skill side in a lot of different things around like collaboration and management and teamwork and leadership and all these other things i think essentially at their core our communication skills um so like a hard communication skill is writing a press release but a soft communication skill is like running a good meeting things along those lines that’s probably where those breakdowns would be as i see them excellent thank you sorry i didn’t communicate that better yeah no i got it uh here’s a question from thomas darcy and he has he has lots of experience with this too so i’d be curious if he has any comments in the chat but what observations were made in terms of changing skills priorities associated with digital literacy digital transformation and the needs of industry i’m happy to jump in on that one just it’s sort of the end of the story about the greater washington partnership because in our region digital skills are critical and there are two types of digital skills that we’re building that alignment between ksas and curriculum and then micro credentialing um one of the things i didn’t mention were through the gwp we’re building a micro credential in digital technologies and it’s designed specifically for the liberal arts student because right now we have so many engineers in our region that there’s a limited pie so how do we expand the pie of talent in our region one way to do that is to up skill uh those in the liberal arts uh those that have great communication skills great team building skills leadership skills all the things that you normally associate with the liberal arts and get them to talk digital um and so through that program we created a micro credential for the digital technology generalist this is someone who’s a liberal arts student who gets information security training uh who gets statistical analysis data visualization and can now speak um in digital terms they’re not deep coders they’re not going to be folks who you want to hire for your engineering team but they’re pretty much everyone you want to hire in the rest of your business uh because they’ve got great communication skills or essential skills along with um some of the technical vocabulary and knowledge that they need to be effective in today’s modern business world so that’s a i think digital transformation is is the buzzword around washington dc every organization federal and private is going through some form of transformation and needs those digital skills yeah to follow on marc and even underscore that you know missouri right now we have about 226 000 job postings i get that number every day that’s one of the things i think about you know and that so i look at that i look at how many missourians are receiving an unemployment claim which is about 412 000 and then i look at that you know what is in the job postings 79 of all of our job coach students have the term microsoft in them whether it’s microsoft office microsoft excel microsoft word we have a significant skills mismatch when it comes to that you know we think of a lot of people who are unemployed right now who maybe were in positions that before the pandemic didn’t require those digital skill sets that now to go back to work need to have those digital skill sets so we’re focused very heavily on digital literacy here and it’s a national problem it’s a missouri problem it’s a dc problem is everywhere problem like marc says we have to find a way to address that because um you know even if you’ve been i mean even i’m a younger person at 38 and you know just because i took microsoft access you know in my undergrad which i you know completed in the mid 2000s 2005 if i got a job tomorrow with microsoft access it doesn’t mean i still know how to use microsoft access because the technology has advanced so much plus i just don’t remember what the heck i i did uh when i slept through that class you know it doesn’t matter what you’ve done even if you’ve been in work for a while if it’s been one or two years since you’ve used microsoft excel you’re behind and so we constantly have to hone up our digital literacy um as well as bring those who don’t have any literacy whatsoever as related to digital skill sets back to the middle you know the other point i want to make here is is we focus a lot on you know there’s a lot of talk about you know entry-level skills and and you know those high-level skills but the middle skills are really important and they’re by the way it’s very hard to define what middle skills are um you know we we kind of look at middle skills are okay you have a high school diploma or a high set but you have not yet completed a two-year degree or higher somewhere in there you know you probably have some uh experience you probably maybe have some competency you know training and education maybe you have some credentials in short industry recognized credentials but what is it that you you know have done recently to to hone up can you use touch screens on everything because everything is a touchscreen now you know and if you’re still using the older phones you don’t know how to use touchscreen then it’s going to be hard for you to work anywhere because everything now is touch screen you know and so just understanding the role of technology and investing in our existing workforce to increase digital literacy among our existing workers is as important as those who are out of work to create that resiliency in our market and avoided the pandemic shine a spotlight on that we knew it but the pandemic now has just told us yikes we have a productivity problem because we can’t get enough uh digital literacy programs up and running and done fast it’s interesting mardy there’s there’s a component of our business that you know is almost acts as a finishing school for folks that come from these engineering programs and stuff but we’re trying to translate them into working for you know a large bank or a large insurance company or something along those lines and it’s it’s interesting because a lot of what we have to do is train them on the existing system and that existing system isn’t the cutting edge one all the time right so it’s like you go into your undergrad and you’re really excited about internet of things and artificial intelligence and drones and all this other stuff but then you get into the real world and it’s like i needed to learn about you know customer relationship management platforms and enterprise resource planning and maybe it’s not the the stuff that’s really sexy but it’s that’s where the job is and so so often times too there’s that sort of um need to get people even the people that are really smart and really sophisticated to get oriented back down to the things that are that are going to be um you know their kind of meat potatoes type skills excellent well i’m going to jump in here we have 27 more questions to get through no joking but there’s a there’s a few that have risen to the top with upvotes and i just want to make sure that we can get through those in the next three or so minutes so jessica adams asked what are the next steps for this report i’m curious to see how workforce development and high school slash colleges will continue to evolve their partnership yeah so um deb i’ll i’ll leave this but if you’ve got anything feel free to jump in but uh you know for us what we’re really excited about is the opportunity to um as a researcher to ask the same question over and over again which i know isn’t always the most uh exciting thing but i think it’s really great to start looking at this on more of a longitudinal basis and so you know full disclosure we’ve been doing this for a couple years now but we really retooled the instrument this year and so i think in our our next couple years it’s going to be asking these same questions again and again to track if there’s changes over time so that’s what i get really excited about but i think every year there’s an opportunity for us to flex and think about um you know what are big trends right now like so you can imagine questions about um you know in a post-covered world what’s going on or if there’s new technology that sort of thing um we’ll definitely want to incorporate that but i think um yeah what i’m most excited about is to start seeing your over your data yeah and i would say too david the only thing i would add to that is we’re also going to supplement that with some industry vertical um deeper dive so we’re going to be looking at a specific sector across a state through an association to really understand what the needs are how those are being articulated by the executives how they are being understood by the employees what are the fears the barriers the mitigating factors that are preventing you know employees to go back and secure additional education so i think that’s going to be a really different um kind of lens from which we can do some research and then try to pair those back and draw some correlations great and deb well i have you i know these insights were from 600 hr professionals in the us but do you know how these skills compare globally you know that would probably be a a question for david more than for me i haven’t looked at it from a global perspective to see how these align i don’t know david if you have yeah um we have a little bit and so we uh we as a company have a global mindset um you know we’re kind of concentrated in certain areas uh like the uk and europe and and australia and the middle east it’s interesting to see um some of the other economies are a little more lean a little more to the technical than we do in in in some of these areas and so um sort of you know it’s all turning dials and knobs right like we might do a little bit more manufacturing we might have a lot more entry-level type jobs things like that whereas maybe there’s other economies that that are maybe a little bit more professionalized or you know have a little bit more um technology so there are some differences i think that the skills don’t change as much as the ratios of them if that makes sense i think that’s true across the states too right like i think a lot of the time we think about um wow you really need these like programming skills in silicon valley and and you know maybe in new york but the reality is that there’s programming roles there’s data analysis roles all over the country you know we need a lot of these skills uh kind of everywhere excellent well i don’t think we’re gonna have time for many more or any more questions there are so many good comments and questions though i’m going to take some time sorting through this and then we’ll get back to you if we can and i just wanted to say mardy said you know it’s time for higher education to sort of flex and be uncomfortable and i know we just went through a year of that we were all in incredible um comfort discomfort and the cool thing is that we realized how flexible and adaptable we are so kudos to you all and i think this is our real opportunity to start doing some foundational work if it hasn’t already begun and then really starting to move the needle on these partnerships so um with that i’d like to just thank our panelists i’d like to thank all of you for participating we had excellent excellent questions comments i will clean up the chat and share that back out because i think there was a lot of resources that were shared in there i don’t know if you all were able to keep better handle on things than i was but there was a lot a lot of things flying by so you can see the contact information and the twitter handles for our participants there and i’m going to go ahead and pass it back to kim who kicked us off today so again thank you all and thank you kim for making this happen today thanks megan uh thanks to our amazing panelists i learned a lot that was a great conversation um if you’re new to wcet visit our website and check us out we have a lot of great resources on our site and blog and we do archive all of our webcasts so you can see what other timely topics and speakers we posted recently again this was recorded and we’ll send you the link and it will be on our website um be sure to check out the full reimagining the workforce 2021 report from our partner wiley and additional resources on their site um save the date for november 2nd for our annual meeting we’ll be announcing the program and registration in early june which is somehow next week already um so we’ll be working um speedily on that and get that out shortly um we will be hosting a one day virtual meeting and some pre and post conference activities um that are included with registration i’d like to acknowledge our wonderful sponsors who underwrite our programs and events here at wcet and also our supporting members so one final thank you to our speakers and to our participants uh thank you for your great questions and engagement take care bye everyone thank you.