Career and Technical Education: Addressing the Skills Gap Through Industry and Education Collaboration

Article posted on EDNET Insight

Timm Boettcher, President & CEO, Realityworks — Friday, February 06, 2015
As chair of the Industry Workforce Needs Coalition (IWNC), a group of U.S. business leaders striving for improved alignment between the educational system and industry, I’ve seen firsthand the need for qualified workers to fill available positions: some of the IWNC’s founding members are already experiencing a shortage of skilled workers in their businesses. This ‘skills gap’ is even more apparent in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent employment summary, which reports that 8.7 million Americans are currently unemployed and 5 million jobs are unfilled.1 Although there are likely multiple solutions to this issue, the one the IWNC and I are striving for is improved collaboration between the educational system and the industries in need of workers.

The Midwest Training Center for Climate and Energy Control Technologies (MTC) is one example of this improved collaboration. Created through a partnership with Washburn Tech, a technical training institute in Topeka, Kansas; the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3); and Trane, a global provider of indoor comfort systems and a brand of Ingersoll Rand, the MTC is helping meet industry-required needs (and addressing the skills gap) by providing state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) training labs and curriculum.

By bringing cutting-edge training technology to these labs, graduates of the Kansas technical college will have the skills they need to enter a job market that’s estimated to grow 21% nationwide between 2012 and 2022.2 Furthermore, students will be more engaged in the learning process, a hallmark of career and technical education courses like this one. By connecting with industry, CTE programs bring purpose to participants’ learning experience as well as plans for the future. In this case, students will graduate from the program with appropriate energy industry certifications through NC3 and ready to seek some level of employment.                                                       

Unfortunately, only 6% of today’s employers partner with educational institutions to fill knowledge gaps with new curricula.3 How can those institutions and employers strengthen their ties to a field that originated in apprenticeships and on-the-job training? Businesses need to be engaged in the development of their local and regional educational programs, while educators match their curricula to industry requirements so students receive the education and skills needed for employment.

As U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker stated in September 2013, following the announcement of $475.5 million in grants to community colleges and universities for the development of training programs in partnership with local employers, “For America’s workforce to be competitive in the 21st century, our workers must possess the skills employers need for their businesses to succeed. That is why employers should partner with educational institutions and government to help develop curriculum and credentialing programs at the local level.”4 By creating a stronger partnership between industry and education, which the IWNC is working to help develop, students will enter the workforce with relevant, applicable skills—and the ability to succeed in in-demand careers.

To lend your support to the mission of maintaining these critical skill development programs for our future employees, contact the IWNC at–addressing-the-skills-gap-through-industry-and-education-collaboration.html
Timmothy Boettcher