New urgency to close skills gap between college and employment

WGU Indiana stresses existing partnerships and creating new partnerships between higher education and employers will create a jobs pipeline of educated talent. (Adobe Stock)

Preparing students to find a job straight out of college is not always easy in Indiana. However, barriers graduates must jump to successfully transition to a career are far from unique to the Midwest.

WGU Labs is an affiliate of Western Governors University, and earlier this year it brought together a diverse group to tackle the disconnect between college courses and meeting the needs of workplaces.

WGU Indiana Chancellor and Regional Vice President Alison Bell said there needs to be more universality among employers, educators, students, and job candidates.

"To start to uncover the barriers because, obviously, this is something that is talked about a lot," said Bell. "I've heard about it for years, 'the skills gap,' so I think the goal is to dig down and identify from all perspectives what are the barriers so that then, obviously, the next step would be how do we address them finally?"

Bell said fostering a stronger local approach creates more opportunities to intern or interview and ultimately builds stronger connections.

Another glaring takeaway from the study is a need for a universal skills language for everyone involved.

"What does an employer mean when they say 'people skills' or 'problem solving,' and how does a student or a graduate self identify that they have the skills that the employers are talking about?" asked Bell. "If we don't have a universal language with definitions that make sense to all of us, we're going to move past each other."

Bell said participants in the study hope to create a learning cycle that can become continuous so the pathway from college to career isn't just a one-time journey, but one in which employers, universities and students work together to clear the logjam in the talent pipeline and reduce the skills gap.

By Joe Ulery, Producer