Businesses Concerned Take Action on College Education

By US Daily Review Staff.

For decades, a college degree was seen as the key to economic success for each American and for our nation. American postsecondary education institutions are no longer producing enough graduates with the skills necessary to meet the demands of today’s workplace. American businesses cannot find enough skilled workers for the millions of jobs they are looking to fill.  The fact that there are not enough people earning degrees with the skills employers need will also affect our country’s overall global competitiveness.

Today, the Committee for Economic Development (CED) is beginning a national campaign to get business leaders involved in postsecondary education reform.  To launch the effort, CED is releasing Boosting Postsecondary Education Performance, a report with data that underscore this urgency.  The CED report concentrates on those “broad-access” institutions that will bear much of the burden when it comes to providing postsecondary education to most Americans.  CED’s goal is to help build stronger connections between postsecondary education and the American business community in order to drive the needed structural reforms throughout this vital sector of American education.

“CED believes that an informed and mobilized business community can make an enormous difference in identifying, framing, and supporting critical reform strategies, and will outline the steps business leaders can take to make a difference,” said CED Trustee Jeffrey Joerres, Chairman and CEO, ManpowerGroup.  Mr. Joerres is a Co-Chair of CED’s Postsecondary Education Subcommittee.

The report identifies six key steps business leaders should support in each state to promote greater productivity, innovation, efficiency, and accountability in higher education.

  1. Explicit goals for the awarding of postsecondary degrees and certificates for the state as a whole, for each sector of the postsecondary system, and for each publicly supported institution of postsecondary education, based on state economic and demographic conditions.
  2. Strategic financial resource allocation plans that are aligned with state goals and specifically designed to motivate increases in productivity and effectiveness.
  3. Annual indicators and metrics that measure progress toward state goals.
  4. “Policy audits” to review the state regulatory environment and identify statutes, regulations, policies, and procedures that impede efficiency, productivity, and innovation.
  5. An annual statewide education “summit” or other exchange among stakeholders to maintain accountability and focus on state goals, to assess progress, and to discuss how to continue and accelerate postsecondary improvements.
  6. Support state strategic objectives through their own corporate policies by directing tuition assistance programs to the most productive and effective colleges and universities, whether they operate through traditional educational programs or offer innovative approaches such as on-line instruction and competency-based credentials, and assisting the 37 million workers who have some postsecondary experience but no degree or credential so that they can complete their programs of study.

Some postsecondary institutions have partnered with businesses to develop and expand innovative approaches that serve students’ and employers’ needs. Examples include:

At Rio Salado College in Tempe, Arizona, local businesses recognized that half of those who enrolled in college were dropping out. To help students succeed, the school and local businesses worked together to create more than 600 online classes as well as flexible locations. One of Rio Salado College’s corporate partners, the United Services Automobile Association, increased its workforce nearly ten-fold in recent years, due in large part to the kind of skills training and college credits completed at Rio Salado by more than 3,000 of its employees.

Huntington Ingalls, a spin-off of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, relies on a highly skilled workforce equipped to handle the complex challenges of shipbuilding. This business invests more than $100,000 per student to provide training and degrees through its apprentice school in Newport News, Virginia. Apprentice students receive a salary and benefits as they work through four- and five-year programs that build skills needed for success in the industry and provide associate degrees in business administration, engineering technology, or engineering.

“There is a disconnect between the higher education community and the business community,” said CED Trustee Bruce MacLaury, President Emeritus, The Brookings Institution, “but business leaders need to get involved.  They have the most to gain – but the most to lose if we don’t improve our higher education system.”  Mr. MacLaury is a Co-Chair of CED’s Postsecondary Education Subcommittee.

This report release will mark the launch of CED’s national initiative to promote postsecondary education reform.  It will provide an important forum for business leaders and experts to highlight reforms that will enhance performance, innovation, and efficiency. It is a part of CED’s overall outreach strategy to engage national, regional, and local business leaders on the important issue of postsecondary education reform.  The effort will continue with meetings in several states throughout 2012.  This CED statement is based on research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The findings and conclusions are those of CED, and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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