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APLU Report: Public Universities Must Renew their Commitment to Student and Workforce Needs

Washington, DC – Public universities must renew their commitment to student and workforce needs, a new study the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) released today asserts. The 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.

“All too often, the debate about the purpose of college is framed as a broad education versus employment readiness,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Today’s report is an important reminder that we need to do both to build a thriving 21st century workforce.”

The new 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 delivered remarks at the unveiling of the report, which 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.

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