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Closer Ties between Higher Education and Workforce Necessary for Success

Last week, the Itasca Project Higher Education Task Force published the results of its eight-month study into developing a long-term success strategy for higher education in Minnesota. The study was conducted with the cooperation of leaders from across the state’s higher education institutions and business community.

In effect, the task force calls for better use of the resources already available within and across higher education institutions and systems, and suggests institutions form stronger links with the business community to ensure relevance. Specifically, the four strategies suggests are:

  1. Align academic offerings with workforce needs
  2. Forster an ecosystem of research and innovation
  3. Form new collaborations across higher education to optimize system-wide intellectual assets and efficiency
  4. Graduate students with foundational and technical skills relevant to Minnesotan prosperity

“The Task Force has allowed for a degree of discussion and collaboration among institutions of higher education, and between the business community and higher education, that we believe is unmatched elsewhere. We intend to build on this in new and meaningful ways,” said Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College.

There are also significant issues with the structure and support of higher education that the Task Force noted, which could make achieving those goals more difficult. For one, they point out the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report that predicts 70 percent of the state’s jobs will require a post-secondary degree by 2018. However, against this backdrop, the state’s higher education funding per student has declined 35 percent over the last decade.

Ultimately Eric Kaler, the president of the University of Minnesota, suggests innovation and new opportunities are the way forward for the state’s higher education institutions.

“Our identified strategies have a single unifying theme; collaboration,” he said. “A new wave of collaborations—among educational institutions and between those institutions and business—has the potential to create a fundamentally more powerful engine of learning, innovation, and economic growth for the state of Minnesota.”