“What jobs will I qualify for with this degree?”
“What’s the average salary for this job?"
“What skills will make me more competitive for these jobs?”
Recruiters and advisors throughout the country get questions like these from applicants and students every day. With institutions now expected to demonstrate to students, parents, and regulators that academic programs will indeed translate into gainful employment, these questions are taking on even greater urgency throughout higher education.
“It’s not about being aspirational; it’s about being affirmational,” says Vincent Johnson, Vice President of Information Systems at Lancaster Bible College. “Students and parents want concrete data that affirms that the academic programs offered align with the needs of the workforce, before they commit to an institution.”
Joshua Beers, LBC’s Vice President of Student Experience, echoes this. “Every year, I sit not only with countless students but parents as well, who are playing a more active role in the choice students make as to which institution their children will attend. This is the largest investment they will undertake aside from owning a home. Unfortunately, colleges and universities have often fallen short of fulfilling their mission and promises. But we have a responsibility to keep our word with students and parents making this kind of investment.”
LBC recently implemented new technology designed to help the institution deliver on the promise of their missions and programs, one that integrates current labor statistics and workforce analytics with its academic programs to better align student skills with employer expectations, both regionally and nationally. As an early adopter of Occupation Insight, LBC is playing a critical role in providing thought leadership and establishing best practices for improving student outcomes using this technology.
“There’s two sides to this methodology and technology,” says Johnson. “One is the career explorer, which is geared toward students who don’t know what career they want to pursue, so they want to see everything that’s out there in terms of careers and demand in the market.
The other side is the program explorer, which reaches into our student information system and grabs the programs and courses in there. As a student, I might know what career I want to pursue, but I also want to know how the courses and programs I’m enrolled in provide the skills that are needed in the marketplace for that career.”
LBC is currently beta testing the system through its business administration program. “We have 27 majors, but we picked our fastest growing program, business administration, to beta test the system, with so much of the aggregated data playing well in this space,” says Johnson. “Also, our department chair was a global executive at Exxon and brings deep information, content, knowledge and industry relationships to the initiative.”
As LBC looks to the future, its goals include adding a new online program and doubling the institution’s enrollment over the next five years. “This is not only a potential recruitment tool for keeping us competitive in admissions, but will help our faculty better align courses with the skills needed in the marketplace,” adds Beers. “It could be a real game changer.”