Partnerships between higher education institutions and employers can be difficult to create, often because of misalignment between the cultures, structures and values of the two groups, according to a July report from California Competes, a nonprofit policy organization focused on higher education.

Higher ed leaders could improve employer relations by making industry engagement an expected responsibility of both faculty and staff, said the report, which drew from 28 interviews with people at colleges and employers.
Robust employer engagement can strengthen enrollment and job outcomes for students, the authors argued, while also benefiting state and local economies.

Misalignments in culture can mean employers struggle to work with a college’s institutional bureaucracy. And higher ed decision-makers may be disinterested in student job outcomes.

“Frankly, higher ed has had a very different function for a long time. It’s only in the past decade or two that the No. 1 reason for our students to go to college was to find a good job,” said Su Jin Jez, executive director at California Competes. “That connection between work and higher ed hasn’t been explicit, even though what’s going to guarantee the biggest returns in the labor market is a postsecondary degree.”

The new report’s authors recommended that both parties — colleges and employers — incentivize employees to engage with the other, while reducing other responsibilities commensurately. Higher ed institutions could also hire people with professional experience in core industries that can be brought into conversations with employers.

Read the full article about employer engagement by Lilah Burke at Higher Education Dive.