NEBHE held a conference titled Talent 4.0: How Employable Are New England's College Graduates and What Can Higher Education Do About It? on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
New England employers consistently claim that they can't find sufficient numbers of skilled workers, especially in key tech-intensive and growth-oriented industries like information technology, healthcare and advanced manufacturing. Is higher education to blame? Are our colleges and universities still operating in "old economy" modes, in terms of services, practices and strategies for preparing students for career transitions and employability?
Those were key themes when NEBHE convened a group of 300 education leaders, employers and state and national workforce development experts to share ideas on how New England colleges and universities can better align with the speed, orientation and demands of a "gigged" economy.
Welcome & Introduction
NEBHE President & CEO Michael K. Thomas welcomed the audience and outlined key themes to be addressed in upcoming sessions. Thomas asked: "How do we ensure that our colleges and universities continue to be the primary engines and most effective source of talent for our cities, states and region?" He prepped the audience with a working definition of "employability" in a quickly changing world.
Labor Market Trends in New England
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Vice President and Economist Robert K. Triest offered an update on New England's economic recovery. He noted that the Boston Fed and NEBHE are natural partners in their concerns about higher education and labor quality in the region. Triest pointed out that "education and health services" was the one economic supersector where employment grew during the Great Recession.
Sustaining State Talent Advantages: Policies, Programs and Partnership
"The words 'entry level' are not dirty words. There’s nothing wrong with entry level said," John Beauregard, president and CEO of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board. The dirty words are “dead end," he said, urging listeners to craft sound working pathways.
Beauregard made is observation as a member of a panel moderated by Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and co-editor of Mass Benchmarks, and featuring: Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor; Virginia Community Colleges Chancellor Glenn DuBois; Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker; and New Hampshire Commissioner, of Resources and Economic Development Jeffrey Rose.
Career Now: The Future of Experiential and Work-Integrated Learning
Peter Stokes, managing director of Huron Group and author of Higher Education and Employability, presented on new models for integrating study and work. Philip DiSalvio, dean of the College of Advancing and Professional Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, moderated reactions from Lynn Pasquerella, president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities and former president of Mount Holyoke College, and WACE CEO Paul J. Stonely.
Preparing Students for the Jobs of Tomorrow: What Higher Education Must Learn in Order to Teach It to Students
New England College of Business President Howard Horton interviewed keynote speaker Jeff Selingo, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education and author of There is Life After College.
Building a New Credentialing System: A Path Forward
Lumina Foundation COO and Executive VP Holiday Hart McKiernan presented on the future of credentialing. Patricia Brewer, Midwest regional liaison at the American Council on Education’s College and University Partnerships program, moderated reactions from Marcus Kolb, assistant vice president of academic policy and assessment at Ivy Tech Community College System; Pamela Luckett, associate dean of operations and enrollment management at Barry University’s School for Professional Career Education; and Nan Travers, director of collegewide academic review at SUNY Empire State College.
Credentials, Pathways, Degrees
Carol Vallone, CEO of Meteor Learning, moderated a panel featuring: Southern Maine Community College President Ronald G. Cantor; James Rianhard, executive vice president of sales & marketing at Full Measure Education; Community College System of New Hampshire Ross Gittell; Felix W. Ortiz III, founder and CEO of Viridis Learning; and Jonathan Keller, associate commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.
What Credentials Do Employers Really Care About?
Kathy Mannes, vice president of the Building Economic Opportunity Group at Jobs for the Future, moderated a panel featuring: Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup Education; Larry Good, chair and co-founder of the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce; David Leaser, senior manager of strategic initiatives at IBM; Steve Lynch, director of workforce and economic development at Burning Glass Technologies; and Patrick Reuss, director of staffing at Electric Boat, General Dynamics.
"What the whole world wants is a good job," according to Busteed. "That comes ahead of everything else that is important to human beings: health, happiness, safety, family. ... We see accomplishing all of those things through having a good job."
Busteed told the audience that the planet's real unemployment number is 1.8 billion, because that's how many people want a good job and don't have one. Even in the U.S., many people have stopped looking for work. And a lot of people lost high-skilled jobs and took lower-paying jobs. "One of the fundamental mission statements that ought to be part of higher education," he said, "is helping people find meaningful work."
Busteed asked who in the NEBHE audience had a college degree. Almost everyone did. "This is a very elite group," he warned. "If you step back, you realize that only 40% of U.S. adults have one of these things that pretty much everyone in the room has." Busteed added, however, that firms such as Goldman Sachs have moved away from hiring Ivy-only, because they worry about missing out on diverse talent pools. Moreover, few employers care about what discipline a prospective employee studied in college. They care much more whether the prospective employee had a job or internship related to the job they were seeking, according to Busteed.
Leaser noted that the computer giant used to sell its software on CDs and deliver it every 18 months; now with cloud development, that turnaround has dropped to 60 days. "So how is it possible that you could train someone in college or even in a code school and have them stay up to date if the changes are every 60 days?" asked Leaser. When thinking about credentials, he said, we need to look at "making sure people have verifiable achievements and marketable skills." He proposed "liquid skills" be added to college degrees.
Career Services 4.0
Susan Brennan, associate vice president of university career services at Bentley University, moderated a panel featuring: Adam Newman, founder of Tyton Partners; Christine Yip Cruzvergara, executive director and associate provost for career education at Wellesley College; and Andrea Dine, executive director of the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University.
The Demand for Tech Skills: What it Means for Higher Education, Careers and Public Policy
Nick Ducoff, vice president for new ventures at Northeastern University, moderated a panel featuring: Susan Buck, an instructor of computer science at Wellesley College and Harvard University Extension and founder of the Women’s Coding Collective; Jeff Forbes, an expert in the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Tom Ogletree, director of Social Impact at General Assembly; and Pat Yongpradit, chief academic officer at Code.org.
The panel on tech skills and careers focused significantly on the hot fields of computer sciences (CS) and coding.
"Seven or 10 years ago, everybody needed to know word processing in order to convey your thoughts and what you were working on. Today, the equivalent is basic web publishing," said Buck. "The internet just makes it so easy to put our your research and ideas and opinions. It touches every field."
At NEBHE's recent Talent 4.0 conference, a panel on tech skills and careers focused significantly on the hot fields of computer sciences (CS) and coding.
"Seven or 10 years ago, everybody needed to know word processing in order to convey your thoughts and what you were working on. Today, the equivalent is basic web publishing," said Susan Buck. "The internet just makes it so easy to put out your research and ideas and opinions. It touches every field."
Buck knows this from three very different teaching jobs. Web publishing skills, by any name, are prized by her undergrad students at Wellesley College as well as her continuing ed students at Harvard University Extension School and those sometimes-dislocated workers at the Women's Coding Collective, which she cofounded to get women and other underrepresented groups involved in tech. She called the coding collective a SPOC (Small Private Online Courses) in contrast to the better-known MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses).
Forbes, a Duke University professor in CS and expert with the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, added: "You really want a computationally empowered workforce," he said. "If I'm doing work in science, if I'm doing work in social sciences, if I'm just trying to publish, I need to be able to use the tools that are available ... and really adapt those tools to do more."
Forbes recommended that early CS programs engage students with more relatable problems such as varying temperature readings in their town. He also suggested that even non-CS majors consider taking not simply a single Intro to Computer Science course, but rather a few courses as a sort of CS-pathway.
Yongpradit agreed that not every single kid needs to become a coder or programmer or software engineer, but should be empowered as a "computational thinker." That, he said, is someone who can figure out how to design a solution to a problem, so a computer can help solve it. "Just inputting data into a spreadsheet is not computational thinking, but creating formulas or writing equations [or] scripts that allow you to automate the process so you can tackle larger problems and larger data-sets" is computational thinking. Yongpradit also suggested that higher ed institutions count CS as an admissions requirement and core credit.
Ogletree noted that General Assembly (GA) has been successful with its accelerated training to "re-skill" liberal art graduates who are looking to change careers into the tech sector. As GA's "Director of Social Impact," Ogletree said his focus is on access and socioeconomic mobility for students students who have not finished four-year degrees. He said students need to be taught not only CS-oriented soft skills but also emotional intelligence and professionalism which may be foreign to young people who faced barriers to opportunity. He added that c-suite mandates to increase tech diversity sometimes break down at the level of hiring managers.
"What we've really struggled with is how do we make the type of training and experiential learning that we're offering at General Assembly relevant within a four-year degree ecosystem?" said Ogletree. GA is a good solution for career-changers, he said. But it doesn't make much sense of a fresh high school graduate to choose a coding bootcamp instead of college, he added. Bootcamp may, however, be preferable to a more expensive master's program in CS, the panelists suggested.
Buck added that some CS graduates are disgruntled that they don't have the skills companies are looking for. One solution, she said, would be to have more cross-pollination from industry outside the academic walls.
Skin in the Game: Public Policy Strategies for Expanding Industry/Industry Connections for Work-Integrated Learning
Bridgewater State University (BSU) President Frederick Clark facilitated a panel featuring: Marjorie Cohen, senior policy analyst at the National Governors Association; Maria Flynn, recently elevated to president and CEO of Jobs For the Future; Richard Porter, former vice president of cooperative education at Northeastern University; and Maureen Dumas, vice president for experiential education and career services at Johnson & Wales University (JWU).
"Traditionally, in experiential education, if you think of coop and internships, you think wow, that's great for engineering ... that's great for students in business [but] how about English, philosophy, history?"
That was one question raised by Richard Porter, former vice president of cooperative education at Northeastern University, during a panel discussion on work-integrated learning at NEBHE's recent Talent 4.0 conference. "We have to change the perception of experiential education so it's for everybody," Porter said.
Marjorie Cohen, senior policy analyst at the National Governors Association, similarly reminded the audience that the gold standard of work-based learning used to be "registered apprenticeships"--which are not restricted to construction and traditional trades. Almost any industry can offer the work-and-learn piece at once, said Cohen.
Porter and Cohen served on the panel with Maria Flynn, recently elevated to president and CEO of Jobs For the Future; Maureen Dumas, vice president for experiential education and career services at Johnson & Wales University (JWU); and Bridgewater State University (BSU) President Frederick Clark.
Clark said BSU's focus on internships has taken on special significance at a time when the college-educated pipeline is strained and graduates need to be adaptable enough to change careers.
With large numbers of students being low-income or first-generation, many couldn't afford to do internships, said Clark, so BSU created a full internship office right down to helping students "dress for success" and worked hard to fund paid internships, which now number 400, up from 12 three years ago, Clark said.
He noted that the Bay State's recent significant efforts in workforce development focused on community colleges. But while about half of recent community college graduates transferring to four-year programs, often in liberal arts, no one talked about the role of the liberal arts or the need for adaptable worker. Is there something we could do as a consortium across New England, he asked, to focus on the trajectory of an entire career, not just the first job?
Dumas said that before she began at JWU, experiential and career services reported to student services, but now she has a voice at the table as an academic unit (a recognition that a speaker in a separate session also noted). JWU has 4,000 students annually in internships that are for-credit, faculty-driven and done with an industry partner. She added that JWU asks students to express the "soft skills" they acquire in terms that employers recognize such as public speaking, conflict resolution, adaptability. Like Clark at BSU, Dumas noted the importance of offering students a stipend because many could not afford to do the internships.
Creating Effective Institution-Industry Partnerships and Connections
University of Massachusetts Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney moderated a panel featuring: Julian L. Alssid, chief workforce strategist at the College for America, Southern New Hampshire University; Kelli Vallieres, president and CEO of Sound Manufacturing; and Steve Barkanic, senior vice president and chief program officer at the Business Higher Education Forum.
Moloney told NEBHE's recent Talent 4.0 conference that her university is the ninth-fastest growing in the country and the second fastest-rising in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. The rise has come about largely because of the topic of the panel Moloney was moderating at the conference: higher ed-industry partnerships.
UMass Lowell offers thousands of opportunities from the day students enter to the day they graduate and many are grounded in experiential opportunities developed in cooperation with industry. But, added Moloney, "We know when we go out to these companies, it's not always a fit ... you have to kind of develop a chemistry ... to really get at effective partnership."
Alssid noted that when he headed the Workforce Strategy Center, the consulting firm he founded, "It was so hard to get employers and education to speak the same language." Then he merged the firm with where CoA. Alssid notes the some of the key is personal relations. CoA's most successful partnership is with Anthem New Hampshire whose president is on the board of the university. Alssid praised the "stackable" nature of COA's offering, noting that a certificate in healthcare equals half an associate degree, which equals half of some bachelor's programs.
Vallieres runs Sound Manufacturing, her family's sheet-metal business in Connecticut, and directs NEBHE's Problem-Based Learning work. Among her stories: "Working with Electric Boat, you would think they would come into the room and demand everything. But it really wasn't that way. It was really interesting to work them through the EAMA [Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance] organization where there are a lot of competitors. But when we get in the same room together, we're not so much competitors as in it for the same things. We looked at what are the 80% of the competencies that we all need ... we looked at building a program that addressed those 80%, and we said that extra 20% is every organization's "special sauce" ... you're going to learn that on the job."
Barkanic spoke of matching Boeing engineers with St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley in Ferguson, Mo. and the University of Missouri St. Louis and Washington University. Boeing engineers are involved in every step of the way, advising students, developing internships and helping with co-curricular offerings. As a major employer in St. Louis, Boeing is realizing it can grow its human resources in its own backyard.
Materials and presentations
Click on each speaker's name below to view and download a PDF version of their PowerPoint presentation featured at the conference:
- Steve Barkanic, Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Business Higher
- Ronald G. Cantor, President, Southern Maine Community College
- Philip DiSalvio, Dean, College of Advancing and Professional Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston
- Ross Gittel, Chancellor, Community College System of New Hampshire
- Larry Good, Chair, Co-founder & Senior Fellow, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce
- Jonathan Keller, Associate Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education
- David Leaser, Senior Manager of Strategic Initiatives, IBM Corporation
- Steve Lynch, Director or Workforce and Economic Development, Burning Glass Technologies
- Holiday Hart McKiernan, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Lumina Foundation
- Lynn Pasquerella, President, American Association of Colleges and Universities
- Michael K. Thomas, President and CEO, New England Board of Higher Education
- Nan Travers, Director of Collegewide Academic Review, SUNY Empire State College
- Robert K. Triest, Vice President and Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Click below to download various other materials from the conference:
- The conference agenda
- The attendee list
- The list of speaker biographies
- Information about NEBHE's programs and services
Information from NEBHE's sponsors and partners:
- Riipen: Brochure
- Tyton Partners: Integrated Planning and Advising and Evaluating Courseware
- Meteor Learning: White paper report and brochure
- New England College of Business: Brochure