Leaders Work to Close Gap Between Education and Labor Market

By Caralee J. Adams — October 27, 2014 3 min read

Too often, educators and employers have different perceptions of what is takes to be job ready.

At The Close it Summit in Washington, D.C., today business, government, education, and nonprofit leaders discussed the changing dynamics of the labor market and how educators can best prepare students for the workforce.

Rather than just a job skills gap, perhaps what the country is facing is a gap in communication or understanding, suggested Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup Education, at the event hosted by Innovate+Educate, a nonprofit focused on closing the national skills gap.

While 96 percent of college provosts believe they’re effectively preparing students for the workplace, just 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree that college graduates have the skills and competencies needed for success on the job, according to recent Gallup polling.

In other research, Gallup discovered that 43 percent of 5th to 12th graders plan to start their own businesses. “That’s an incredible amount of entrepreneurial energy,” said Busteed. Yet, only 3 percent of the students polled were running their own businesses, 5 percent were interning with a local organization, and 17 percent had worked one hour or more within the last week.

Schools should think about how to identify and support kids with entrepreneurial talent, just as they do high-achieving students or those with good athletic abilities, suggested Busteed. When thinking about mentoring or other ways to encourage career pathways, he noted of the students surveyed, middle school students’ desire to start their own business was stronger than high schoolers’ (51 percent to 33 percent) and minority students want to be business owners more than white students.

Leaders at the summit suggested smart employers realize they need to boost investment in training and work with schools.

“We need business, government, education, and innovators to close the gap between what education imparts and what employers seek in hiring,” said Bryon Auguste, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council.

While the college wage premium is still very high, many employers are increasing the education requirements for jobs to include a college degree because of the excess supply in applicants, said Auguste. This is creating a bottleneck and an expensive training system where students are coming out of college without skills that are particularly well-aligned with what employers need. Businesses should do more to train talent from within and develop partnerships with educators to inform them of needs of in-demand jobs.

Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs, said schools are doing a better job of educating students but it’s difficult to project what fields will be “hot” four years from when a freshman enrolls in college because the lag time is too long. “It’s almost impossible to do. The economy is way too volatile,” he said. The demand for many jobs is cyclical and skills that employers want are often very specific.

With apprenticeships shrinking, higher education wants to fill the gap but Cappelli suggests colleges aren’t particularly good at workforce training. A more realistic approach might be for educators to aim at preparing students for work skills and businesses being responsible for training, he said. “Employers are taking a shorter-term perspective. They want people with work experience before they hire them,” said Cappelli.

Mara Swan, the executive vice president for strategy and talent at Manpower Group, said in a more global, transparent, and competitive market employers are looking for talent that can do the job from day one. “We don’t have the luxury of time,” she said. Rather than using college as a proxy, Swan suggested hiring practices need to change to identify the range of applicants’ skills, perhaps with more video interviewing.

Cappelli noted the hiring managers value work experience over grades and that message needs to reach students who want to be competitive in today’s labor market.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
Speech Therapist - Long Term Sub
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read