Giving Compass' Take:

• A panel at a conference last week at George Mason University discussed how higher education has a part to play in education workforce partnerships.  Colleges are starting to offer continuous learning opportunities that are skills-based and make more accessible learning pathways for individuals seeking certifications. 

• How can donors support partnerships between institutions and companies that need upskilling opportunities for their employees? 

• Read about how to develop diverse talent in the workforce. 

Employers, which have scaled back their investments in employee education in recent years, are again seeing a need to be involved in that upskilling.

Yet studies repeatedly show that business leaders are often at odds with colleges and students as to whether graduates are adequately prepared for the workforce.

How higher ed and companies can reconcile their views in order to identify and address the skills students need was the topic of a panel session at a conference for public-private partnerships in postsecondary education, held this week at George Mason University, near Washington, D.C.

Those skills are changing. Colleges are now charged with developing learners "who understand that education is no longer a one-time affair," said Nicole Smith, also a panelist and chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. She added that postsecondary institutions have the potential to be a "revolving door" through which students come and go as they need to re-up their qualifications.

Sylvia Burwell, president of American University, agrees. "People are going to flow in and out of postsecondary education" seeking a mix of skills, knowledge and credentials, she said on the panel. "Continuous skills," which include critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, writing, oral communication and data analytics, serve as the foundation.

Integrating the skills employers desire into postsecondary curriculum is a balance, not a trade-off.

One sign colleges are moving in that direction is the spate of acquisitions in the online program manager market, where companies that help some colleges with distance education are expanding their portfolios to include boot camps, short courses and more certificates in addition to graduate degrees and executive education.

The emergence of these and other alternative education pathways make up the framework of the so-called "lifelong learning" approach, through which people return to postsecondary institutions to build out their educational profile piecemeal.

Read the full article about the role of higher education in workforce partnership by Hallie Busta at Education Dive.