Collaboration and Engagement

Seventy-six percent of students continue their education after high school and pursue a degree to improve their job opportunities [1]. Still, many graduates lack the essential skills for their chosen career. Could this be due to a lack of collaboration and engagement between colleges and employers?

“When it comes to the types of skills and knowledge that employers feel are most important to workplace success, large majorities of employers do not feel that recent college graduates are well prepared,” says the Association of American Colleges and Universities [2]. In fact, fewer than three out of 10 employers think graduates possess the necessary soft skills required for a job role. Only industry-specific partnerships between colleges and employers can solve today’s skills gaps. Here’s why you should invest in these relationships.

What are Industry-Specific Partnerships?

Industry-specific partnerships are collaborations between colleges and employers that reduce national skills shortages. These connections provide employers with a pool of job-ready degree candidates. At the end of their programs, students not only have the academic smarts but possess soft skills like problem-solving, communication and punctuality. When college curriculums align with industry needs like this, programs provide students with the knowledge they need to advance their careers.
Partnerships between colleges and employers have always benefited students. “Robust relationships between colleges and local industry partners are critical to building strong workforce development programs for students,” says the Brookings Institution [3]. These links bridge the gap between college administrators and employers, and they ensure students prosper in an ever-competitive labor market.

Why are Soft Skills So Important?

On many college programs, students learn academic theory and concepts related to their chosen discipline. However, a growing number of graduates leave higher education with no knowledge of soft skills — attributes that promote better interaction in the workplace. A lack of soft skills could be a deal breaker: 77 percent of employers believe that soft skills are just as important as hard skills when assessing prospective job candidates, while 16 percent said they were even more important [4]. Moreover, soft skills improve productivity and generate a 256 percent return on an investment [5].
What are the most popular soft skills? Seventy-three percent of employers seek graduates who have a strong work ethic, 73 percent value dependency, 72 percent want candidates with a positive attitude and 66 percent prefer self-motivated jobseekers [6] Industry-specific partnerships help students learn these qualities through online learning programs or in a classroom setting.

“The good news is that soft skills are learnable,” says Jan Bruce, writing for Forbes magazine [7]. “In fact, resilience training experts, who specialize in teaching and training in the soft skills, would go further to say they are foundational to creating strong employees, teams, leaders and organizations.”
Higher education institutions can achieve workplace readiness by offering soft skills training in their programs. Classes that include skills like creativity, communication and leadership give students a competitive advantage over their peers as they enter the workforce.

The national skills shortage is a huge concern for businesses in almost every industry. Eighty-seven percent of recent graduates say they are ready for the world of work after earning their diplomas, but only half of hiring managers think the same [8]. Industry-specific partnerships provide students with life-long skills they can transfer to the workplace. The result? More skilled, productive staff.