In Fall 2018, The Washington Center (TWC) convened its inaugural TWC Employer-Higher Ed Roundtable, an invitation-only event bringing together colleges and universities, employers and thought leaders in the field of higher education.
Through panels and roundtable discussions, attendees aimed to collectively identify and address the challenges, opportunities and solutions that will best prepare students for success in the workforce.
Following a welcome from Saima Siddiqui, TWC’s Vice President of Development, Alumni and University Relations, Christopher Norton, TWC President, opened the event by reviewing the change the workforce has undergone since he started his career. “The demand now,” Norton commented, “is for graduates to arrive in the workforce ready to contribute from day one.
TWC’s unique vantage point at the confluence of employers, colleges and universities, and students provided the perspective to thoughtfully convene these audiences. All of which focus on providing students, under TWC guidance, the opportunity to learn and grow”.Saima Siddiqui, TWC’s Vice President of Development, Alumni and University Relations
The first panel, “Theory to Practice: Preparing Students for the Workforce,” was moderated by Norton and included panelists such as Dr. Lynn Pasquerella, President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), Dr. Leo Lambert, President Emeritus of Elon University, and Verron “Ron” Brade, Deputy Associate Administrator for the NASA Mission Support Directorate. Several panelists pinpointed a disconnect between academic institutions and employers regarding expectations and preparedness. On one hand, some academics believe that a perceived lack of career-ready skills is attributable to employers’ human resource departments not knowing what higher education teaches. On the other hand, there are employers that strongly believe that campuses are unaware of what employers are seeking and the skills that make students successful candidates
The second panel, “College to Career: Opportunities and Challenges,” featured college and university faculty and staff actively engaged in preparing students as well as employers involved in hiring and mentoring young adults. Represented colleges and universities included Lubbock Christian University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, while employers on the panel represented the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) and Seraphim GLOBAL/EpicSolutions. Moderated by Dr. Kelly Eaton, TWC’s Chief Academic Officer, the panel considered an assortment of workplace circumstances that students might encounter and the roles that higher education and employers can play in helping students and recent graduates navigate them successfully.
The final portion of this half-day event was a roundtable working session entitled, “Crowdsourcing Solutions: Employer-Higher Ed Collaboration.” Facilitated by TWC’s Senior Director of College and University Relations, Donna Hay-Jones, attendees at each table were given 20 minutes to discuss provided questions that focused on opportunities for improving student outcomes from both sides -- academic institutions and employers -- drawing on what attendees had heard during the Roundtable and from their own backgrounds. The resulting notes were collected by TWC for a report that will be shared with attendees for use in developing future plans and strategies.
To conclude the event, John Hilton, Chairman of the TWC Board of Trustees, provided closing remarks, noting that for students and supporters of students alike, “people passionate about something will be successful.” The Roundtable was the mid-point of an important annual weekend for TWC. The day prior had featured the Liaison Advisory Board (LAB) and Academic Seminars Advisory Group (ASAG) meetings, key convenenings of highly-engaged TWC partner colleges and universities. The evening of the Roundtable was TWC’s 2018 Annual Scholarship Dinner, the theme of which was “Impact” and which celebrated the impact of The Washington Center’s partners in students’ lives and in society.