Our view: A higher ed partnership to help students enter the workforce
What’s the point of a college education?
Some would say the answer is to get a job and find a career.
Others would say a college education helps people become well-rounded, informed citizens able to learn and grow.
Both answers are correct, though some feel there’s too much of the second answer and not enough of the first answer taking place in colleges today.
College presidents are listening to those people. And they have banded together in an effort to educate students who fit both answers.
The Higher Education Regional Alliance is a partnership of the two-year and four-year colleges and universities in the region in an effort to address the needs of today’s workforce.
“Our bold goal (is) to significantly reduce skills and talent gaps in southeastern Wisconsin by increasing the employment rates and number of post-secondary graduates in the region,” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone wrote last fall.
To do this, Mone said schools are “accelerating credentialing, building a database to compare talent needs with academic programs, and identifying new educational programs to meet the needs of business, industry and communities.”
Our local college leaders have embraced this initiative as well.
“There will be a shared commitment to the value of education,” University of Wisconsin-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford said recently during a meeting with Carthage College President John Swallow and Gateway Technical College President and CEO Bryan Albrecht.
The goal is simple: Colleges will work closely with business leaders to train and graduate students ready to step into skilled jobs that are going unfilled right now because of the skills gap.
In addition, two-year schools will work hand-in-hand with four-year institutions to smooth out any necessary transitions from one to the other.
And finally, the schools will create programs that can fast-track students, lessening their time and school and getting them into jobs quicker.
However, these aren’t apprentice programs. As Mone notes, schools still need to graduate students who will be able to adapt and grow with the times — not simply those ready to step into a job that may be obsolete in 10 or 15 years.
“There is a need to focus on lifelong learning and equity that includes social sciences, humanities and the arts,” Mone wrote. “These are the areas that develop career resilience and skills that last a lifetime (and that can’t be replicated by machines): critical thinking, empathy, curiosity, persuasion, collective problem-solving and creativity.
“Our future economic health, social welfare, capacity to accelerate innovation and build prosperity depend on strong partnerships like HERA. This is our opportunity —and responsibility — to impact generations.”
We couldn’t agree more. HERA is to be applauded for working to help students enter the workforce prepared for the jobs of today as well as the jobs of tomorrow.