How Can Higher Education Stay Relevant for the Workforce?

This is the second post in a series where we share the conversations between higher education leaders that came together during Everyone a Changemaker Week. They discussed the role of social innovation as a significant lever for the relevancy of higher education in a time when many claim that colleges and universities are becoming obsolete. This series delves into how higher education may be our best bet for empowering society to innovate at the rate the world is changing.

When recent graduates hang up their caps and frame their diplomas, many find themselves standing in employment lines.  According to Influencer Design Challenge Team member Branka Minic, Director of Global Corporate & Government Affairs at Manpower, youth are facing unemployment for three major reasons: they lack relevant:

  1. Skills
  2. Work experience
  3. Market information and networks.

The session attendees discussing the connection between higher education and the workforce agreed that students need to be better equipped with skills, training, and mentorship for successful entrepreneurship. Higher education needs a paradigm shift.

"Beyond the books" leadership and entrepreneurship skills

Universities can make huge strides in strengthening the pipeline from students’ educational experience into the social sector and changemaking activities. Alan Harlam, Director of Social Entrepreneurship at Brown University, believes that giving students the freedom and support to create their own ventures during college prepares them to become knowledgeable leaders and entrepreneurs.

If educational institutions offer students platforms to innovate, they will see an emerging ecosystem of social entrepreneurs. Experiential student-led ventures provide young people with valuable experience and skills—both soft and hard—that they can apply to their work after graduation. But universities can’t simply offer the books on social entrepreneurship. They need to provide the professors, too. While most institutions don’t offer specific courses on social entrepreneurship, many do have an untapped resource of people who are willing to offer their guidance and knowledge on the subject—alumni.

Tapping Alumni Resources

An active alumni network can recruit students for jobs and connect students to employers. But it can do more than that. In the words of Chet Safian, a founding member of Princeton AlumniCorps and Director of The Alumni Network, alumni can “contribute to social entrepreneurship on campus and beyond campus.” Strong mentorship from experienced individuals will improve a young person’s entrepreneurial success. Professional guidance may help students overcome barriers and challenges that they face in managing an organization or changing a system. It is certain that if universities leverage the knowledge and support of alumni social entrepreneurs, recent graduates will be creating jobs instead of seeking them. And at the same time, emerging Changemakers will develop the momentum to achieve the results they want to see. 

Read other pieces in this Social Innovation For Higher Education Series by AshokaU

This article was originally published on August 21, 2012
Related TopicsChildren & Youth, Higher education, Social Entrepreneurship

Leah Breen
Intern with AshokaU

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