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Why Workforce Development Is Crucial for Educational Institutions

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Workforce development is quickly becoming a priority at institutions of higher learning. Graduates who see a strong correlation between the skills they learned in school and the work they do post-graduation rate their educational experience more highly and are much more likely to give back.

“It’s really about mission fulfillment,” says Anne E. Lundquist, Ph.D., assistant vice president of campus strategy at Anthology, a leading higher education solutions company. “As students are successful after they leave the institution, it shines well on that institution.”

Bridging gaps

“There’s a career exploration life-cycle,” says Adam Hopkins, a strategic consultant with Anthology. “There’s a lot of focus on the beginning part — a student comes in and they have a certain interest and want to figure out what they’re going to do with that interest. Then there’s a lag until junior year and they need an internship, a résumé, to start networking and launch the job search. We’re missing the portion in the middle, which is the necessary research to really understand what your chosen field entails and what will be required to be prepared.”

Bridging this gap between what employers are seeking and what institutions are preparing their students to do will require greater cooperation between academic institutions and employers — and the sort of data visualization that companies like Anthology can offer. “There needs to be a constant conversation between institutions and employers,” Hopkins says. “Not just focused around the skills, but also on developing strong relationships between institutions and employers.”

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“There’s a larger public good,” notes Lundquist. “When the institution graduates successful students who get employed, that builds a stronger workforce, and it impacts the local and regional economy. People are healthier. They use less government and digital resources, earn higher wages, and pay higher taxes. So, there’s a positive feedback loop.”

Data is key

“Data is ultimately the driver in this conversation,” notes Hopkins. “The ability to leverage technology to curate solutions and a concise, aggregated tool to use this data is what students need to really close this gap.”

This is data that Anthology can provide its clients via its business intelligence platforms. That includes a combination of information about required skills and employment needs from sources like the Bureau of Labor statistics and insights gathered from the students themselves on the competencies they’ve acquired — and how and where they acquired them. “Skills aren’t exclusively developed in the classroom,” notes Hopkins. “The skills gained from student engagement — participating in activities, clubs, and other organizations — are just as important.”

Leveraging that data with a strong technology platform is crucial. “We have a technology platform that includes an event check-in app,” notes Lundquist. “Now students can easily say, oh, there’s an event I want to go to on Tuesday, cool, let me check in on my phone. But the institution now has data about which students are going to which events. They can now allocate their resources where they might want to improve or add or change.”

Ongoing support

The idea that higher education was a finite experience is fading quickly as well — workforce development isn’t just for current students. “Institutions need to be available to their graduates in order to support them if they’re looking to upskill or reskill,” notes Hopkins. And Lundquist sees an upside for the future health of the institution in that support. “Engaged and involved alumni end up contributing their time, talent, and resources,” she notes. “They help the institution continue to thrive and grow.”

Lundquist advises that in order to achieve success, institutions must be willing to admit their flaws. “A lot of campuses are averse to negative data because they’re looking at it through a marketing lens,” she says. “But they can use that data to understand the problem and understand what the adaptive strategies for change might be.”

To learn more about Anthology’s higher education solutions, visit

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