In recent years higher education has placed growing importance in not only educating students but in developing their employability as well. Colleges around the nation are increasingly partnering with employers to develop classes, summer programs and professional development events that prepare their students with the skills to smoothly transition into the workforce. Northeastern University was recently named in The Princeton Review as one of the top 50 colleges “that launch careers by going beyond the classroom.” Northeastern has long recognized the value of workforce training and has been at the forefront of experiential education since its founding in 1898 with its co-operative education model.
In anticipation of the shifts to come in the higher education and landscape and the changing nature of work Northeastern University has developed a number of programs offering students the skills they need to survive and thrive in the modern workplace. The university’s commitment to education grounded in practical application comes from the very highest levels. In a recent article for HBR Northeastern’s President Joseph A. Aoun pointed out that the emergence of new jobs which increasingly require hybrid skillsets demand hybridized educational programs.
The Skills Gap
At conferences, in meetings, and from news outlets across the country, the challenge of the ‘skills gap’ is trumpeted as a major and growing problem for the US labor force. According to EMSI – a CareerBuilder company – the skills gap is the “perceived mismatch between the needs of employers for skilled talent and the skills possessed by the available workforce.”
Evidence certainly supports the existence of a skills gap in the US market. The number of available job openings in the US is sitting at 5.5 million – near record highs. Similarly, with the growth of high-skill jobs in the technology space and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to Asia, the structure of the workforce is increasingly favoring the highly-skilled. Indeed, the top 7 tech jobs in the US have starting median base salaries well in excess of $100,000 dollars. However, even in manufacturing the pernicious effects of the skills gap will be felt in years to come. According to a recent Deloitte report, two million of the three and a half million manufacturing jobs that will need to be filled in the next 10 years will go unfilled.
Bridging the Skills Gap: The Level Bootcamp & Co-op
So how are universities addressing this big and growing gap? A recent Wall Street Journal article identified how universities are turning to companies like Burning Glass and resources such as Linkedin to identify trends in hiring. Northeastern University has a seven-person team which combines population forecasts, labor market data and real-time data on job openings to inform university initiatives and policy. Specifically, the Level bootcamp was mentioned in this article as an innovative program that was launched out of this intentional approach to creating the experiential education Northeastern is known for.
The Level Bootcamp is at the forefront of a new generation of higher educational offerings designed to prepare students with the skills and experience to thrive in the workforce. The Level curriculum is highly industry-aligned and was designed to bridge the skills gap with input from Northeastern University’s employer partners. Students combine this industry-aligned curriculum with a three-week capstone project where they develop industry experience by working with data and solving real-world problems alongside Level’s partner companies.
Additionally, the University’s signature co-op program, which places undergraduate and graduate students in 6-month full-time placements with employers nationwide continues to provide students with crucial learning opportunities. Indeed, 86 percent of the 1000 partner employers surveyed by Northeastern rated Northeastern graduates as very or highly prepared for the workforce compared to 64% for graduates from other colleges.
In addition to the Co-op and Level program, Northeastern University has or is developing a number of postgraduate offerings such as an MS in Innovation, an MS in data analytics and an MS in project management which are designed to equip professionals with key high-value skills that will stand the test of time in today’s fast-paced workforce.
While the skills gap will persist in the years to come (the number of job openings including the phrase ‘data analytics’ has increased a staggering 372 percent since 2011), Northeastern will continue to drive higher education forward to becoming more experiential, practical and industry-aligned. Level is proud to be one of the many organizations working to bridge the skills gap one student at a time.