BBJ: A Regional Call to Get to Work
As originally appearing in The Boston Business Journal

By James T. Brett and Michael K. Thomas

The New England Board of Higher Education Commission on Higher Education & Employability recently released an 18-point strategy to increase the career readiness of graduates of New England colleges and universities and improve their transitions to work.

Chaired by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, the 50-member commission invested 11 months in public meetings and working group sessions exploring New England employers’ concerns about a lack of qualified, skilled workers, particularly in rapidly changing, technology-intensive and growth-oriented industries.

In its report, “Learning for Life and Work,” the Commission offers a strategic action agenda with key recommendations to align institutions, policymakers and employers.

The commission believes that all postsecondary students must have access to and demonstrate completion of critical employability-related experiences during their postsecondary education, including:

  • foundational skills in literacy, numeracy and communication
  • an individual career plan prepared early in their postsecondary experience
  • at least one paid and/or credit-bearing work-integrated learning experience
  • achievement of digital competencies related to their course of study, career goals and the fast-changing economy
  • attainment of an affordable credential that is employer-informed and aligned to a career pathway

The NEBHE Commission also recommends that the New England states should collaborate to launch multi-state, industry-specific talent pipeline partnerships focused on top growth-oriented sectors in the state and region (including healthcare, life and biosciences, information technology, advanced manufacturing and financial services), and driven by key stakeholders from higher education, industry and government.

As a regional business association, the New England Council brings together employers across a range of industries with colleges and universities to foster partnerships that will help develop a talent pipeline in our region. The council has promoted internships, apprenticeships and other partnerships where employers ensure that students are being educated in up-to-date industry practices that will prepare them to contribute to the regional workforce. The council has also advocated for public policy that will support and enhance experiential learning opportunities for students at various levels of education.

Talent is already one of the biggest reasons that companies choose New England. Building upon the world-class strength of our institutions and human capital will confirm that this reputation is long-lasting and indisputable.

Working together, we can ensure that New England will have a future as a hub for cutting-edge technology, innovative entrepreneurship, and career-ready graduates prepared to tackle the economic and civic challenges that lay ahead for us all.

James T. Brett is president & CEO of The New England Council and a member of the NEBHE commission on Higher Education & Employability. Michael K. Thomas is the president & CEO of NEBHE and executive director of the commission.

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