Collaborating with Industry Partners to Develop Workforce-ready Degree Programs in Higher Education

Introduction

When we engage with our industry partners about student preparation for the workforce the resounding response that we get is that college graduates are lacking in some fundamental skills. Students today are often well prepared in academic or technical skills that employers need for workforce-ready graduates to have, however it is the soft skills or interpersonal people skills that are lacking.

The idea of workforce-ready skills extends beyond technical or academic knowledge. Employers are looking for new hires to demonstrate workplace habits including reliability, punctuality, customer service, and high-quality task completion.  Other important skills that are lacking include written and presentation skills that are appropriate in a business context, teamwork, problem solving, and the ability to be a creative thinker.

Beyond these attributes, often referred to as “soft skills,” STEM proficiency will be key to workplace success. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are critical to innovation, which is vital to the 21st-century economy.

The Project And The Unique Challenge

When standing up a degree program for a partner ensuring that the learning outcomes for graduates align with the expectations of the industry that these graduates will ultimately work  in is of paramount importance. When establishing a Master of Science Integrated Healthcare Management degree program our manager of industry partnerships was responsible for conducting extensive interviews with industry employers to ensure the competencies and skills of graduates met employer expectations.

This required communicating within a complex network of industries that all fall under the umbrella of healthcare professions, including but not limited to pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, and medical device companies and clinics.

Our Approach And Solution

All of our projects begin with extensive market research. With our aging population and growing need for healthcare workers, preparing graduates with the correct skill set is more important than ever. The ability to sift through ever-changing government regulations and insurance company mandates makes our industry partnership focus critical to understanding the key job skills and core competencies needed. Our research to quantify and qualify the market is conducted to ensure that the skills in target job descriptions are incorporated into the learning outcomes of the program.

Execution And Outcome

Once partnerships are established with the industry we put together an industry advisory board that stays aligned with the institution. The curriculum work is intended to be fluid and the need to ensure graduates are achieving the intended learning outcomes only happens with a constant dialog with partners who have a vested interest.

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