How Skillifying Can Make our Institutions More Employer-Friendly

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Kelly Ryan Bailey, Global Skills Evangelist at Emsi, a labor market analytics firm, joined the Enrollment Growth University podcast to talk about forging new partnerships with local employers by creating a shared skills language between us.

“Skillifying” Education

Employers typically need to move a lot faster than traditional higher education can go. So they look closely at alternative resources and explore partnerships with them. 

Late last year, for example, Randstad partnered with Udemy. Because companies need their employees up-skilled quickly, they take advantage of the options available.

The idea is that what higher education offers is extremely valuable, but employers don’t understand it. Instead, they understand what they need in terms of skills. But that’s not necessarily what higher education talks about when they’re discussing their programs.

Consequently, to secure new employer partnerships, it’s more important than ever for institutions to prove and show their value to an employer. Kelly is working on one such project at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

Together, Emsi and SNHU are breaking down all their programs and courses into the common language of skills that employers use.

How to Create a Skillified Program

Traditionally, if an employer came to your institution to ask about skills training, you scrambled to create a brand-new custom curriculum because you wanted to make sure that you were offering what they asked for. 

Once you gain visibility into the skills your program offers, however, you often find that you can use what you have already created, and it’s right at your fingertips. You can reshuffle and repackage courses you already offer into something like a badge or a micro-credential.

For many schools, though, this kind of hyper-customization is scary. People don’t want to have to create a new custom program for a single employer. Plus, there’s still some fear in the lift involved in creating these one-offs even for a big potential feeder employer. We asked Kelly if that big lift has to be the case once you skillify your program.

“Emsi has created a really wonderful software that handles this,” she told us, “but generally speaking, it’s more the visibility.”

If you could compare the skills listed in a syllabus or a course description with what the labor market demands, you can intelligently answer the question: Am I actually talking about all of the skills that I’m teaching in the way that employers understand? 

When that information is available in a searchable software interface, you can easily click on a few courses based on the skills that this employer is looking for to create that custom program. 

The big takeaway here is that customization is more about repackaging an existing solution than creating a new one from scratch.

How Skillified Program Storytelling Helps Recruit Students

Students are changing. 

The average person has 10 jobs throughout their life. 

We’re living longer. 

The labor market is evolving rapidly. 

Prospective students are thinking hard about whether or not they want to sit down for a 4-year degree. 

When you can list specific skills students are learning, you’re doing marketing. You’re helping degree-seekers calculate their return on investment. You’re really talking about the value that you’re bringing to them and focusing on their goals. 

After all, most students that come to our schools are coming because their goal is to get a job or move forward in their career.

A Sneak Peek Into the Future of the Learning Economy

Let’s say a lot more institutions implement the skillified methodology to create, construct, and customize their programs. What does that future learning economy look like both from a student perspective and from an employer perspective? 

Kelly believes that in 10 years, we’re going to start to see less status awarded to holding a degree and more weight given to programs that can help people upskill their careers throughout their lives. 

Modern students need to step in and out of education and do so over and over. But often, they also want to have a trusted resource in their alma mater. 

Next Steps to Connecting With Local Employers

First, don’t be scared. This is a fantastic opportunity for transformation and growth for your institution and those that you serve.

Emsi, the company Kelly represents, offers an open-sourced skills library that any institution or organization can use. It’s a great way to start to understand how you can look at your curriculum in this shared skills language of employers. 

You can also find free resources on Emsi’s skills website, which allows you to copy and paste in a syllabus document or a course description. That way, you can view what types of skills you are talking about in your curriculum. You’re probably already teaching a lot of valuable skills, but you may not be communicating them in your course descriptions and your syllabus documents. 

If you really want to look at this more broadly across all your institution’s curriculum, Emsi is just a few weeks shy of releasing their software solution called Skillabi. Emsi has tested this technology with groups such as Southern New Hampshire University, and it has made a world of difference in the way schools can look at their curriculum. 

Skillabi may be a great first step toward helping your school repackage existing solutions for employer partnerships. 

This post is based on a podcast interview with Kelly Ryan Bailey of Emsi. To hear this episode and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.