The Economist-Lumina Foundation Challenge: Fewer Degrees of Separation – Bridging the Gap Between the Workforce and Higher Education
- Could you please start by telling us a bit about your organization and the origin of this Challenge?
The Economist Group is the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs. We deliver our information through a range of formats, from newspapers and magazines to conferences and electronic services. What ties us together is the objectivity of our opinion, the originality of our insight and our advocacy of economic and political freedom around the world. Earlier this year, The Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of The Economist Group, conducted a study of 343 senior executives from US companies to understand their perspective on workforce-relevant higher education and training. The study was sponsored by the Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60% by 2025. The Challenge originated with the key findings of this study
- Employers are open to the idea of collaborating with higher education to improve workplace preparation and career development training.
- Although the desire for collaboration with higher education is almost universal, there is a lack of coherence in how companies approach such partnerships, the kinds of institutions they seek to partner with, and the benefits they expect to derive from these collaborations.
- The survey, in particular, reveals a pervasive concern and need among companies to better understand the tangible returns on the investments they make, whether in institutions, educating students or training employees. If we want to expand and improve these collaborations, finding ways to better measure outcomes looks to be a key first step.
- What are you hoping to achieve with this Challenge and can you describe the impact of a successful solution?
The solution to this Challenge would achieve scale in closing the communications gap that exists between the employers and educational institutions. A successful solution would open a channel of dialogue between universities and companies and if implemented, would result in collaborative movement to lessen the global skills gap.
- What was your motivation for crowdsourcing this Challenge?
The Economist has had a history of successfully crowdsourcing solutions to a number of important global issues, such as the future of work, entrepreneurship, education etc. The Economist Intelligence Unit research study showed that there is an overwhelming consensus among employers that too many graduates lack critical-thinking skills and the ability to communicate effectively, solve problems creatively, work collaboratively and adapt to changing priorities. In addition to these “soft skill” deficits, employers are also finding that young people lack the technical, or “hard”, skills associated with specific jobs. We feel that today’s environment for creative disruption is more ripe than ever and this gives us the opportunity solve an issue that the current status quo has not addressed.
- What are the key attributes you’d like to see (or not see) in a winning solution?
The winning solution will be judged by the following attributes:
- How unique is this approach for identifying skill sets required for success?
- What new insights will be provided?
- How will this change the way employers hire?
- How will this change the way institutions of higher education develop curriculum?
- How will it change the lives of individuals?
- How do you define success for your product or service?
- Can this product or service be used across industries?
- What is the target population (e.g. traditional college graduates, adult learners in transition, people seeking a new career path, entry level, managers)?
- How will this product or service provide a benefit to employers and recruiters?
- Will the information gathered allow higher education institutions to design or reinvent courseware to teach relevant skills?
- Can your approach be implemented in a cost-effective way?
- How quickly can this be launched by employers, colleges, and universities?
- What data must be collected, analyzed, and shared between employers and institutions of higher education? What is your method?
- How will you measure return on investment to stakeholders?
- Any final words of encouragement for our Solvers.
Don’t get too stuck on the nitty grity. This is the time to put forward ideas that haven’t been explored yet. The challenge is your chance to improve the current educational system and its relationship with employers. A solver can make a tremendous impact on progress in this field whether or not s/he is already working in this space. It’s all about ideas that create value.