Bridging the hole between training and employment: Group faculty and past | MIT Information
The pandemic has highlighted an urgent need: the best-trained workforce flourishes, but too many others are left behind. To meet this challenge, community colleges can be a rich resource in training the higher-skilled workforce that the industry is now demanding. However, schools need to do more, in partnership with employers and policy makers, to bridge the gap between education and employment.
In a nationwide effort to develop new educational models for advanced skills, MIT Open Learning and MassBridge hosted Bridging the Education / Workforce Gap: Community College and Beyond this July, a two-day conference with thought leaders from all walks of life in education -workforce equality examine how to expand and create new training opportunities that prepare students for quality jobs. Building on new models discussed in a recent MIT study (MassBridge Advanced Manufacturing Education Benchmark Report), the speakers exchanged additional ideas on how to bridge this gap between education and employment in many different sectors.
During the conference, some common themes emerged:
- The workforce needs agile learners who can easily develop their skills.
- Industry needs change rapidly, so training programs need to be adapted accordingly.
- Partnerships with employers in the industry are central.
- Courses, training and certificates must be accessible to all learners.
Day 1: educational perspectives
On the first day of the program, professionals from community colleges, state government, and industry recognized the growing need for adaptive training programs for both entry-level and incumbent workers that require strong partnerships between educational programs and employers. George Westerman, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and Senior Scientist at J-WEL Workforce Learning, says, “We need a new model for employers to create the workforce they need instead of trying to find it . ”A flexible hybrid online presence model would allow a wider range of students to access and complete these programs. Training programs should emphasize “soft skills” that workers can still use as hard skills develop.
In “The Changing Face of Community College Education” panelists working at community colleges discussed the growing demand for entry-level training and accelerated entry-level training. Redesigning curricula with concrete milestones like “stackable certificates” would accelerate the path to graduation for part-time students, they said. Focusing on “Proof of Value” can embed the needs of local industry employers into courses.
A panel on the role of education policy, moderated by Bob LePage, Assistant Secretary for Vocational Education and Training in Massachusetts, focused on opportunities to rebuild and modernize the education system. The pandemic has shown that a hybrid approach to education could be an equitable strategy that combines the best of digital access and hands-on activities to accelerate student learning. Beyond the classroom, schools need scalable work-based learning opportunities that go beyond the registered apprentices. Politicians at the federal and state levels also endeavor to embed industrial partnerships in the traditional closing model, said the speakers.
In “A Cross-industry Look at Education Needs”, panelists from Mass Tech College and University, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center discussed the challenges of finding qualified candidates for technical professions. They envisioned a system to incentivize these hard-to-fill positions by partnering with community colleges to provide short-term training for low-wage workers. By training the existing workforce, employers can better adapt to their own needs.
A keynote presentation by Bill Bonvillian, Senior Director of Special Projects at MIT Open Learning and Lecturer at MIT, and Sanjay Sarma, Vice President of Open Learning, focused on the high non-participation rates of the workforce that have risen and been through over the past 15 years the pandemic. Recent reports show that millions of higher-skilled positions remain unfilled because we lack the workforce training system to train those who can fill them. The labor market information chain is broken: workers do not know what qualifications they need, teachers do not know which qualifications to train for, and employers do not know what qualifications workers have. “The social contract of universities has to change,” said Sarma. “Ideally, such a contract would“ provide holistic education to the people who need them in the workforce ”.
Bonvillian made recommendations for new training models, such as breaking down the work / learning barrier through more apprenticeships; Creating “Trifecta” programs at community colleges that reach high school students, community college students, and incumbent workers; Introduction of short courses that lead to certificates and degrees for students who are already working and have time restrictions; and integration of federal programs at the state level. Bonvillian said, “Developing programs that complement each other … blurring the lines between degrees and diplomas, filling gaps where Pell grants fail to meet labor needs – all of these are programs that emerged directly from these combined efforts by education and industry . “
Day 2: Industry, Government and Student Perspectives
Future workers need training in digital literacy, practical skills and critical thinking. The speakers on the second day of the program showed a strong drive, perseverance and curiosity from community college students, which can be nurtured through targeted training programs.
On the Up and Coming panel, MIT mechanical engineering professor John Liu hosted a conversation with a group of current and former community college students who were returning to school after a stint in the workforce to pursue training in another area . Their motivations ranged from pursuing their passions to helping others to create a more stable future for themselves. One of the panelists, Mussie Demisse, was a former Bunker Hill Community College student who received his bachelor’s degree from MIT. Demisse said the MassHire program, which supports student success through government funding and industry involvement through individual coaching and internships, “has aligned their goals for improvement with mine, and that made it easier for me to to reconcile my goals with them ”.
Keynote speaker Celeste Carter, Senior Program Director for Technological Education at the National Science Foundation (NSF), shared how the NSF has developed a program that addresses innovative strategies to train the skilled technical workforce. Carter said that communication with students is extremely important for any educational program. “There’s a lot of curiosity, a lot of persistence, a lot of really smart people at two-year institutions. We have to use that, ”she said.
In a panel discussion on statewide agency and collaboration, statewide education leaders who work for various institutions in different states shared similar achievements through partnership, listening, and flexibility. Panellists said it is important to have a flexible program structure that can adapt to these evolving needs of employers and students. Amy Firestone of Apprentice Carolina and the South Carolina Technical College System shared how her “3D process” (which stands for “discovery, design and delivery”) affected her program.
Crossing organizational boundaries
Over two days of panel discussions, educators, policy makers, industry leaders and students spoke about the success of partnerships between educational institutions and employers. If employers have a legitimate interest in the outcomes of training programs, students will be trained with current industry needs in mind and better prepared for the workforce after graduation, they said.
“One word we heard a lot during this conference is ‘partnership’ and that is so important,” says Westerman. “Because we have a void and you cannot bridge that void on your own is an unnatural act, and so we must all find ways to get there.”