In March, the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) and representatives from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation hosted a summit in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to incorporate 21st Century competencies into K-16 education, and how business can influence internal and external stakeholders to align education and the workforce. The event was attended by leaders from government agencies, industry, and associations like NASDCTEc.
BHEF is the nation’s oldest organization of senior business and higher education executives dedicated to advancing innovative solutions to U.S. education and workforce challenges. Composed of Fortune 500 CEOs, prominent college and university presidents, and other leaders, BHEF addresses issues fundamental to our global competitiveness.
The summit included the launch of a report which talked of the importance of alignment between student outcomes and workforce demand, closer collaboration between the corporations recruiting employees and the institutions educating them, and deeper learning, which is defined as a mix of content knowledge and 21st Century competencies such as team work, communication skills and the ability to think critically.
As stated in a press release for the summit, BHEF’s research suggests that:
- Rapid technological change, the increasing complexity of the challenges companies face, and the pace solutions must be brought to market have forced recent college graduates to enter the workforce with a wide combination of high-order competencies that go beyond content knowledge.
- Leaner companies are doing more with fewer employees, moving staff across divisions to give them a cross-functional work experience that deepens the company’s bench strength and fills gaps in the workforce. This means employees, to be viewed as an asset to the organization, must emerge as “T-shaped professionals,” flexible and able to adapt their deep content knowledge across work environments.
- Companies are developing their own assessments to screen the competencies of applicants and current employees and investing less in internal training programs to increase workplace competencies. Developing those workplace competencies at the K-16 levels will realize considerable cost savings and, concomitantly, strengthen students’ competitiveness in the job market. However, developing the necessary 21st century workforce competencies in graduates will require closer collaboration between the corporations recruiting employees and the institutions educating them.
- Business-led partnerships that engage industry and educational institutions in strategic rather than transactional relationships can help address the ineffective signaling between business and higher education on the need for 21st century workforce skills.
“Our workforce is at a critical juncture,” stated Brian Fitzgerald, CEO of BHEF. “Our members’ collaboration has revealed not only key insights, but also a unique opportunity for business and higher education to communicate in a new way and create fresh pathways for graduates to the innovation workforce.”
BHEF was a member of the Career Readiness Partner Council. Career Technical Education has an important part to play in all of the issues featured in the report, through implementing our vision, and our participation in events like these ensure a strong voice for state directors in the education and business world, by ensuring that the work we do is well known and appreciated.
David Beckett, Advocacy Manager