EducationHigher Education / November 26, 2013

Higher Education Leaders Address Skills Gap

Sam Klemet
Higher Education Leaders Address Skills Gap

Higher education leaders from around the city are coming together to explore how colleges and businesses can collaborate better.

The goal is to bridge the gap between job openings and the skills needed to fill them.

"Here in Central Indiana, right now, we have job openings that we cannot fill because of the lack of qualified talent particularly right now in the middle skill job areas that are so important to our economy here," said Lumina Foundation President and CEO James Merisotis.

Panelists from Ivy Tech, University of Indianapolis, Harrison College, and IUPUI weighed in on the issue during a forum downtown, Tuesday.

They pointed to the impact the recession had on jobs which aren’t likely to return making a postsecondary degree more important.

UIndy President Robert Manuel says schools and businesses need to work together not only to address immediate skill needs, but ones that are sustainable long term.

"There is an immediate need for folks to do a specific skill and there is a greater need in my mind, in the education that I am serving, to help businesses continue to maintain their relevance and their growth," he said.  "The conversation that I see is as much 'what do you need from us' as it is 'trust us we know we are developing students that can be exactly what you need' because that's our skill set, that's our expertise."

And IUPUI Chief Academic Officer Nassar Paydar says it’s important for institutions to give students more options to pursue a degree.

"We may have three-quarters-of-a-million Hoosiers in the state who are working and want to go back (to college) but they have life between them and college," he said.  "So, we need to find ways of getting technology, online programs, online courses, making it easier for students to do that."

A Georgetown Center study projects by the end of the decade, there will be more than 600,000 job openings in the state for Hoosiers with a post-secondary education.

"It would be helpful if we could understand skill sets needed for industries not individual companies," said Ivy Tech Chancellor Kathleen Lee.  "We really can't offer degrees for every single company, but where companies and clusters have come together to agree on some particular competencies and skill sets, it makes it much easier for us to train at a baseline."