At the closing session of the annual meeting, APLU unveiled a report examining the need for public universities to renew their commitment to addressing student and workforce needs.
The new report, Ready for Jobs, Careers, and a Lifetime: Public Research Universities and Credentials that Count, says that public universities need to not only help prepare their students for a successful life through a general education, but also address workforce needs and prepare students to thrive throughout their professional career. The report also lays out several concrete steps public universities can take to do exactly that.
The report calls on public universities to deepen their engagement with stakeholders, including employers, as they aim to strengthen the link between degree completion, workforce entry and job and career success. The labor market increasingly demands that students are prepared not only for their first job after graduation, but for series of jobs and even multiple careers – some in fields that don’t yet exist.
The report issues several recommendations for public universities to help better prepare their graduates, including:
- Adapting university services and teaching models to suit a new kind of college student that has different needs than so-called traditional college students;
- Coordinating with other higher education sectors to determine the best ways to link curriculum and programs across different types of institutions;
- Engaging industry to learn and address their workforce needs, including by facilitating planning sessions as universities map current and future curriculum to needed credentials;
- Offering alternative credentialing – such as certificates, badges, or competency-based programs – to help individuals sharpen their skills as jobs and even industries evolve.
- Providing forums for industry partners to learn about the university’s research and development enterprise;
- Consulting with policymakers to enhance, expand, and refine impact measures to develop capacity for evidence-based policymaking; and
Helping to formulate public policy to catalyze industry partnerships and network development as well as co-designing indicators to measure the impact of university-industry partnerships.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta also delivered remarks at the closing session, calling on public universities to both maintain their commitment to general education and work harder to strengthen the link between a college education and the workforce through practical experiences such as apprenticeships and internships. He used the example of the Raphael fresco The School of Athens to illustrate the need for universities to maintain a commitment to general education and the search for new knowledge while providing students with opportunities for practical learning. He encouraged university leaders to appreciate and work towards fulfillment of this vision of higher learning while ensuring that students developed practical experiences and skills that would help them live a productive life in the workforce.
The event included a forum discussion among university presidents, higher education researchers, and labor experts about how public universities can better prepare students for success in life and careers after they’ve graduated.