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It's all about jobs


Project after project investigating ways higher education clients can reverse their enrollment crises, a recurring theme emerges: students are overwhelmingly focused on jobs while higher education is focused on students’ earning a credential; a goal-gap is apparent. When these observations are shared with higher education clients, eyes roll, minds close, and common response is evoked: "our role is education, not job placement." 

Futures Research project data underscores why this gap can and should be bridged; our analysis of this data reveals multiple strategies to bridge this pervasive gap. The trick is to package these strategies in ways that can be heard by institutional decision-makers. Guided by the unique data of a given project, the packaging follows familiar contours: 

  • Start with jobs - this applies to pathwat design, curriculum development, and marketing to recruit new students.
  • Focus on job skills, knowledge, and competencies - this applies to learning activities, advising, learning outcomes, and assessment.
  • End with jobs - this applies to workplace learning opportunities, professional network development, and alumni relations.

It's reassuring to see a growing number of industry research efforts reporting similar results. It's encouraging to see state and federal policies inching toward jobs-aligned mandates for continued funding. It will be exciting to see higher education embrace the idea that students are more motivated by a good paying job than a degree or certificate. The fact of the matter is that a post secondary education is a means to an end: it's all about jobs. Even students in transfer and graduate school prerequisite programs are ultimately focused on an employment outcome.

The core finding across many recent projects suggests that higher education programs should strongly consider aligning their value proposition with the goal students seek: a job.