The 2014 EPI Forum on Education and the Economy is focused on the connections between the various levels of education and the workforce. In particular, we are interested in the latest expectations and needs of the private sector in terms of new recruits and job retraining. What is the role of our postsecondary education sector in development skilled persons for the current and future economy? What roles do the various higher education sectors have in preparing the future workforce? And how much STEM do we need? These questions beg a more philosophical dialogue about the role of the college and university in society, especially four-year and liberal arts degrees. In the end, we need to have a better idea of how many college graduates we need, and for what.
We need to explore in more detail how higher education can meet societal needs at higher quality and lower cost. The escalating costs of postsecondary education have pushed students, families, and governments toward a fiscal cliff of sorts. If people agree with the adage that almost everyone in our workforce needs a postsecondary credential, shouldn’t it be more universal and less expensive? Higher education must provide differentiated learning opportunities at affordable costs, and need-based aid needs to be supported. As well, we need to learn more about the roll of non-traditional higher education, including for-profit providers and other sectors that provide shorter-term options, including MOOCs, badges, and stackable credentials. What will be the impact of these types of awards to postsecondary opportunity and our workforce?
And finally, our quality of higher education and workforce depends greatly on what happens with the youth in our elementary and secondary schools and in their communities. Much has been studied and said about the lack of preparation of students for today’s workforce, but is this representative of youth at large, or more isolated? How different are our children compared to us? Regardless, we need to understand how to better motivate and prepare students for life after high school, either through articulated postsecondary programs or direct options to the workforce. A contemporary issue is the role of the common core state standards, approved by a majority of states, but with many now having buyer’s remorse and pushing back from the standards and accompanying assessments. Several high-level university presidents recently made a pronouncement about the importance of the common core, but politics is pushing the other way. What is the role of these standards, and what should we do with them?
These are some of the questions to be discussed during the 2014 Forum on Education & the Economy.