Posted on 01 Jun 2017

The United States has seen a steady decline in its unemployment rate with a surplus of job openings. Join us as we explore the cause and effect of this phenomena in our blog series How HR can Catalyze Change in the U.S. Economy. Part 3 of this series discusses the role higher education HR can play in assisting their institution supply adept and experienced graduates to the job market.


Part III: How Higher Ed HR can Help Build the Talent Management Pipeline

By Robert Hill, Senior Vice President – North America, PageUp


The Class of 2017 has graduated from their respective universities. Thousands of students will leave campus confident to take on “the real world” with an average of 120 credits and four studious years under their belt. Are our nation’s college graduates ready for success?

Or better yet: have we prepared them to succeed?

A recent survey from PayScale found that even though nine in 10 recent college grads believe they’re prepared for the workforce, only half the nation’s employers agree.1

Though many employers use a Bachelor’s degree as a proxy of skills needed for a job, as stated in a 2014 Washington Post article, they are “probably seen less as a gold star for those who have them than as a red flag for those who don’t.”2

In a recent Inside Higher Ed discussion, economist Sandy Baum explained: “We need to help people make better choices. They need much more guidance and advice from us, and that may not always be the guidance that is going to help your immediate enrollment or bottom line.” … “That means looking at college outcomes in a different way. Students can’t necessarily predict a career path ending at a specific job. But they can find jobs out of college that help them build a skill set and a career.”3


Where’s the Blind Spot?

As we learned in a previous segment of this series, we see a high demand in Technical Sales and Sales Management jobs but rarely do we base our curriculum around these flourishing roles.

Let’s compare a Pharmacy Technician vs. an Entry-Level Help Desk Support Technician, for example. An individual who enters the workforce as help desk support has the opportunity to move on to higher level IT roles throughout their career, whereas a Pharmacy Technician has little upward mobility with skills and certifications that are difficult to translate to other positions or gain a higher earning potential.

The “Career Lifetime Value” portrays the value of an occupation to a worker by measuring the occupation’s average salary and future earning potential.5 When compared to the high value provided to U.S. business, the disconnect becomes more clear:

Our nation’s educators and employers should focus on the required skillsets and education behind jobs of strategic importance to American companies and how likely they will result in a high standard of living for the employee.


Clear the Path

While the economy shifts to a new normal, less conventional and more flexible forms of education have surfaced – guiding all types of students through a clearer path to the workplace and providing opportunities to establish a prosperous career. Here are a few of many prudent examples of outcome-based learning that have emerged to help students transition into the workforce:


Competency-Based Education (CBE)

CBE is nothing new to the American education system, but it’s become the focus of significant attention in higher education due to the concern about whether graduates are adequately prepared for the workplace. CBE capitalizes on the potential of online learning, enabling new models that can reduce both the cost and time needed to earn credentials while better preparing students for their professional lives.6


Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP)

The DQP outlines a set of reference points for what students should know and be able to do upon completion of associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in any field of study. DQP represents a comprehensive and ongoing effort to clearly define what post secondary degrees mean in terms of specific learning outcomes. Through focusing on broad areas of learning and application of that learning, the DQP illustrates progressively challenging performance expectations for all students.7


High-Impact Practices (HIPs)

HIPs share several traits: They demand considerable time and effort, facilitate learning outside of the classroom, require meaningful interactions with faculty and students, encourage collaboration with diverse others, and provide frequent and substantive feedback.8


Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech)

P-TECH enables students to begin their college and professional lives more quickly and with more support than the typical school-to-work pathway. Graduates of P-TECH have the opportunity to earn an associate degree and leave the school with the skills and knowledge they need in order to continue their studies or step seamlessly into competitive jobs in the IT industry.9


So, How Can HR Help?

Given the complexity of higher education and the many levels of approval in mind, there are several steps an HR professional can take in helping higher ed and the business world walk hand-in-hand.

Recruit an engaged culture. Keep our nation’s competitiveness top of mind while hiring. Make sure you’re seeking out a culture of teaching and administrative staff who understand our economic needs and the value in aligning curricula to industry demands. You can start by simply streamlining your communication at your next campus recruiting event by delivering a clear institutional vision to candidates via next gen technology.

Encourage industry interaction. With your new engaged culture of recruits, inspire them to design programs of study that promote e-learning, job shadowing, internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training as much as possible. Process-driven degrees facing particularly large skills gaps should seek out innovations in augmented reality or gamification. The key is to provide mentorship in a professional setting whenever possible.10 To conceptualize the process, you can share content and Everyday Learning through mobile technology that presents faculty with a consumer-like experience (think Pinterest) to develop and complete online learning.

Teach it. If you have the distinguished opportunity to practice and teach HR, communicate the importance of industry knowledge to your students. Broaden curriculum to incorporate soft skills and the changing nature of the workforce. Ensure they’re mindful of economic shifts no matter where they end up in their career. These same students being taught at your institution or even in your own lecture hall may go on to sit in the C-suite one day!

Adapt quickly. They say the only thing constant is change. “CHRO roles are challenging in a way that is vastly differently from even five years ago…It’s not enough to just be good at traditional HR functions; you have to be good at the business side of things, too.”11 Higher ed faces an inevitable shift in priorities that will disrupt every institution’s current mode of operation. You’ll be forced–and let’s admit, it’s time!–to step out of the traditional comfort zone.

Be a change agent. Work with employers to forge supply chain partnerships, share best practices, and focus on career lifetime value and ladders of advancement. If we understand this is a challenge, HR can help influence our institutions and our students to initiate concrete, economic transformation.

If you can’t control the pace, it’s best to buckle up and enjoy the ride!


About the author: Robert Hill

Rob Hill leads the North American PageUp team and has 15 years of experience in leadership roles in software development, product management, and solution selling across a variety of industries. He has expertise in SaaS, web and mobile technologies, cloud computing, lean methodologies, program management, and product development. Rob has been with PageUp People for over 8 years, specializing in assisting clients achieve business impact through Talent Management Technology. Rob is an alumni of Harvard Business School and Swinburne University of Technology’s BIT scholarship program.



  1. These are the courses that really prepare college students for jobs
  2. The college degree has become the new high school degree
  3. What the Working Class Wants
  4. Video: Fixing America’s Talent Supply Chain
  5. Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills
  6. 7 Things You Should Know About Competency-Based Education
  7. Degree Qualifications Profile
  8. NSSE: High-Impact Practices
  9. Pathways in Technology Early College High
  10. JPMorgan Chase pledges $17M towards job training for high school grads
  11. CHROs Reveal Serious Gap In HR Talent