Neutron Insights: APSCU Workforce Symposium

Neutron recently braved mid-Atlantic storm Dion to attend the Inaugural State of the Workforce Symposium: From Education to Employment, a two-day event hosted by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) whose membership primarily includes accredited, private postsecondary schools specializing in career-specific programs. The organization is dedicated to helping its members educate and support over 3 million students each year for employment in more than 200 occupational fields.

Preparing Tomorrow’s Workforce

APSCU’s symposium took place Dec 9-10 just days before a federally appointed panel convened to engage in a third round of negotiated rulemaking to define the terms of gainful employment. The U.S. Department of Education is expected to introduce stricter regulations on student loan debt to income ratios, eliminating funding and losing accreditation for failure to meet the government standards.

Regardless of the session’s outcome, the symposium made it clear that private-sector schools recognize a critical imperative to improve programs across the board to produce a globally competitive workforce. Featured guests—including schools, congressmen, veterans, employers, economists, and policy makers—rallied attendees to address a dramatic skills gap that, according to the organization’s website, impacts 13 million unemployed Americans and an additional 90 million Americans who are undereducated and unprepared for the 21st century job market.

As more people struggle to get hired with a traditional four-year degree (once the golden ticket to employment) many are starting to rethink outdated notions of career colleges and the demographic they serve. This ideological shift is occurring both outside and within private-sector institutions. Internally, educators are beginning teaming up with employers to achieve shared goals.

Employer-School Partnerships

Eric Spiegel, President and CEO of Siemens USA, highlighted his company’s relationship with Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) as a potential model for private-sector schools interested in implementing workplace development programs. Siemens works with CPCC to align course curriculum with industry demands, a strategy that several speakers advised throughout the symposium as means of identifying and resolving skills gaps. Hurco USA’s Scott Camloh discussed his company’s similar relationship with Lincoln College of Technology, training a new generation of CNC machinists on the school’s Indianapolis campus. Camloh described the partnership as invaluable, a sentiment echoed by Caryn Pola of Kaiser Permanente and Tim Foster who relies on Concorde Career Colleges to hire what historically have been her most competent employees. She credits the medical assistant training program for helping meet the growing demand for skilled allied health professionals.

The future of America’s workforce is evolving at a rapid clip and private-sector schools are racing to adapt to dramatic labor trends. In his presentation on technology’s impact on the job market, symposium speaker and former labor organizer Andy Stern cited economist Jeremy Rifkin’s prediction that the “third industrial revolution” will take 30 years to complete. That’s a lot of change to process in a brief period, especially if you don’t speak the language of complex computer programming and data analysis. “The structure of employment is fundamentally changing,” Stern said, adding that schools need to change, too.  Many APSCU member schools are at the forefront of such change, implementing cutting edge programs and relevant job training for fast-growing careers in healthcare and technology—careers that can be obtained with one to two years of postsecondary education.

Tackling Today’s Skills Gap

In a panel addressing education’s response to the skills gap, representatives from the National Skills Coalition, American Association of Community Colleges, and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities agreed that all schools—public and private—are working to improve job placement rates. As the symposium concluded on Tuesday evening, the takeaway for proactively resolving America’s shortage of skilled workers called for a combination of employer-school partnerships and access to real-time data measuring student performance, program efficacy, and employer demand. Critical data allows educators to address the skills gap, identify market need, and build a workforce to meet that need.

At Neutron, we’re continuously developing new technologies to improve our enrollment marketing services in an effort to aid schools in their mission to bridge the skills gap. Our custom solutions make it easier for educators to connect with students and for students to obtain lifelong career success. Click here to learn how Neutron might improve your bottom line.