Thanks to support from Strada Education Network, Ithaka S+R published Mapping the Wild West of Pre-Hire Assessment: A Landscape View of the Uncharted Technology-Facilitated Ecosystem earlier this month. We asked Beth Bean, Vice President, National Engagement, Philanthropy and Policy at Strada Education Network, to tell us more about the organization’s focus on education-to-employment transitions.

Strada Education Network has made innovative solutions in education-to-employment transitions a priority area for its philanthropic work. In your view, what are the most exciting advances going on in this field?

What stands out the most is the robust innovation activity focused on Completion with a Purpose in the education to employment space. Recently, there has been broad recognition that the education pathways of students must lead to employment or a career. At Strada, we are focused on this mission, and are excited to see innovative solutions emerge in this space. To give one example, Strada recently announced our support for Paul Quinn College’s expansion in Plano, TX. Led by President Michael Sorrell, this is an innovative model that brings career relevance to its students in partnership with employers by allowing students to learn technical skills from employers while they learn human skills from college coursework at the same time. This is a great instance of the silos of academia and business dissolving away through an innovative partnership.

What is the most surprising challenge or area of innovation that will lead to more employers connecting with talented students?

In December, our Strada Consumer Insights team released an Employer Survey in partnership with Gallup. The survey looked at what hiring managers value in job candidates today. What I was most surprised to learn was that employers lacked confidence in their own company’s process of identifying and recruiting the best talent for the job. Imagine, employers are admitting that they don’t have in-house knowledge or capacity on skills-matching, and the need is critical to their organization’s future success.

The marketplace has already uncovered this skills-matching challenge and responded with multiple solutions. I marvel at the entrepreneurs’ anticipation of the needs, and the translation of those needs into solutions.

Strada recently partnered with Ithaka S+R to better understand the dynamic landscape of technology-facilitated assessments. What advice do you have for postsecondary institutions, employers, and policymakers about ways to collaborate in order to successfully link education to work?

As a social impact organization, Strada is pleased to be an integral part of finding solutions along the pathways from education to employment. We view Ithaka S+R’s research contribution to our mission of Completion with a Purpose as important step in this pathway.

For postsecondary institutions and employers, Strada strongly encourage them to listen to the education consumer voice. As employers are signaling that skills and experience matter in the workplaces of the future, learners of all ages are skilling up, and making their academic choices more relevant to their goals in the labor market. There is no time like the present for education providers and employers to partner in meeting the students where they are.

As for policymakers, they should exercise flexibility with the academic institutions they already fund as well as with the employers who fuel our economy with jobs. Flexibility means encouraging new learning pathways, prudently setting standards, and fine-tuning laws as needs change. The Ithaka S+R report shows that innovation is sometimes an imprecise business. We should all be mindful that when errors are made on the road to finding solutions, persistence and patience are important to figuring out what works.