Employer Engagement

A New Guide to Close the Skills Gap

Emily-KinardBy Emily Kinard, Government Relations Coordinator, USA Funds

On the path from education to employment, many college students never make it to their intended destination. Although students cite getting a good job as their top reason for attending college, approximately 50 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. At the same time, the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce forecasts that 5 million positions will go unfilled by 2020. The “skills gap” — a fundamental mismatch between employers’ needs and graduates’ skills — is largely to blame. Yet a recent Gallup survey reports that 98 percent of college provosts believe they are preparing students for the workforce, while only 11 percent of business leaders agree.

As part of our focus on Completion With a Purpose℠, USA Funds® believes every student who invests in postsecondary education should expect a solid return. Closing the skills gap is critical to ensuring this return. The Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative is a collaborative effort between USA Funds and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) to tackle the skills gap head-on.

Modeled after supply chain management best practices already familiar to employers, the TPM methodology turns the traditional education-to-employment process on its head. By repositioning employers as end-customers and then working backward to shape educational content and delivery, TPM seeks to bridge the divide between education and labor to deliver value to students, business, education, and society at large.

tpm%20toolkit%20key%20graphicLast week, USCCF and USA Funds released an implementation guide outlining six specific strategies for putting the TPM model into practice. These strategies include:

1. Organizing Employer Collaboratives
Historically, employers have engaged in connecting education to business needs via a third party. TPM instead calls for collaboration by employers for employers.

2. Engaging in Demand Planning
Employers should identify positions that drive their competitive advantage and work with leadership across their organizations to determine how many workers are needed to fill these roles.

3. Communicating Competency and Credential Requirements
Using a shared language, employers should define and communicate the skills, knowledge and certifications requisite for open positions.

4. Analyzing Talent Flows
Back-mapping — tracing talent back to its sources and looking for patterns — allows employers to identify preferred providers and areas for improvement.

5. Implementing Shared Performance Measures
As end-customers, employers should take a lead role in working with government and education to develop measures of success across partnerships.

6. Aligning Incentives
Employers should establish common incentives both within their organizations and with external partners to lower costs and improve performance.

Stakeholders are already hard at work incorporating these strategies into their everyday processes. The TPM initiative includes a Learning Network of seven regional partners actively engaging in and refining the TPM model. At the same meeting introducing the new implementation guide, each partner had the opportunity to present its work so far. We look forward to further insights from the Learning Network as the TPM project progresses, and we will continue to share lessons learned along the way.

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