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Building a Talent Pipeline: Challenges and Solutions to Align Industry Needs

Aligning education with industry needs requires keeping pace with the latest technology and preparing students for the jobs of the future.

Building a skilled and adaptable workforce is a pressing concern for higher education leaders, as they recognize how crucial educational attainment is for adult workers. With technology driving rapid changes in various industries, empowering adults with enhanced skills and abilities becomes imperative to meet the modern workforce’s evolving demands. In this interview, Randy Gardner discusses the challenges that come with building a talent pipeline, the need for collaboration and how to build a learning ecosystem around adult workers.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why is it important for higher education leaders to focus on educational attainment for adult workers in the workforce?  

Randy Gardner (RG): Technology is a critical and ever-changing part of the modern workforce, so enhancing adult workers’ skills and abilities is especially important to produce a skilled workforce that can meet these changes. With the number of traditional students—high school graduates—expected to decline in the coming years, focusing on adult workers will help maintain a pipeline of skilled workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow in Ohio.   

Evo: What are some challenges to building a talent pipeline that aligns with industry needs?  

RG: As stated previously, technology in today’s workforce is ever changing, so it’s important to provide postsecondary education opportunities that not only align with industry needs today but also anticipate and prepare for tomorrow’s needs. We must continue to be proactive in developing collaborations and partnerships that will help our higher education institutions align their teaching with the industry needs both in the region and beyond.    

Evo: What are some best practices to overcome some of these obstacles and implement a lifelong learning ecosystem among institutions?  

RG: Continuing to provide funding for programs like Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) and TechCred will help ensure students are fully prepared to enter the workforce upon earning their degree or credential and adult workers can upskill throughout their career to evolve alongside technology.   

Evo: How does collaboration play a role when it comes to this broader strategy?  

RG: Ohio prides itself in taking an all-of-the-above approach to educating and preparing its students for successful careers. That is, it takes all our higher education institutions—technical centers, community colleges, public universities, independent colleges and universities—working together to provide a skilled workforce and a strong economy. That approach also involves collaboration with regional employers to understand their needs and how best to prepare students to meet them. 

Evo: How is the state of Ohio investing in working adults’ educational and professional success?  

RG: Ohio offers a variety of opportunities for working adults, from programs like TechCred that allow them to upskill and advance in their career to grants, scholarships and other opportunities that promote continuing education. The Second Chance Grant Program, College Comeback program and our many credit transfer initiatives cater to students with some college and no degree. Through a partnership between Cuyahoga County and student success nonprofit InsideTrack, eligible Ohio National Guard members can access free student success coaching.

Evo: What trends do you expect to see in educational attainment and the workforce? 

RG: I expect we will see more programs geared toward nontraditional students including our veterans and servicemembers. Many adults in Ohio still have some postsecondary education but no degree, and I expect there will continue to be opportunities for those adults to earn a degree or certificate, as we simultaneously fulfill the needs of employers choosing to locate or expand here.