Report Summary

Closing the skills gap: companies and colleges collaborating for change explores the role of partnerships between US industry and higher education in preparing students and employees for the modern workforce. It considers how their cooperation can address the current “skills gap”—a growing gulf between the skills workers possess today and the skills businesses say they need—and investigates what US companies are willing to do to work with higher education to narrow that gap.

As the basis for this research, which was sponsored by Lumina Foundation, The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted in March 2014 a survey of 343 US executives familiar with their company’s workforce-development strategy and higher-education efforts.

Why read this report

  • 71% of executives surveyed say that increased employee loyalty and higher retention rates is a top incentive for investing in post-secondary education and training programmes for employees.
  • Concerns about return on investment are key obstacles to making investments in education; 61% of executives are held back by difficulties identifying institutions or programmes that are worthy, 56% by negative attitudes about ROI inside their company, and 51% by difficulty ensuring ROI.
  • 80% of executives say access to analyses of financial benefits would improve the chances that their company would invest in post-secondary education.
  • A majority of companies are willing to collect, analyse and share data to assess educational effectiveness and improve education and training programmes.
"Colleges and universities think they’re adequately preparing students for the workforce. You couldn’t have a more stark difference of opinion from industry."
Dane Linn, vice-president at Business Roundtable



Published:June 4th 2014

Aisha Labi
Riva Richmond
Interviewed for this report:

Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

Ryan Childers, section manager for apprentice and associate training at BMW Manufacturing Co., South Carolina

Carrie B. Kisker, independent consultant and director of Center for the Study of Community Colleges

Dane Linn, vice-president at Business Roundtable

Julio A. Pertuzé, assistant professor at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Ann Randazzo, executive director of Center for Energy Workforce Development

Christopher Valentino, director of contract research and development at Northrop Grumman

Louis Soares, vice-president at Center for Policy Research and Strategy at American Council on Education

Jason A. Tyszko, senior director of education and workforce policy at US Chamber of Commerce Foundation

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