Earlier this week, I sat in on a virtual Zoom conversation that centered on talent pipelines and the new ways colleges, universities and businesses are looking to develop academic programs and partnerships that align the priorities of today’s learners (on average 26 years old and working while taking courses) with the businesses that employ them.
A recent survey by the Strada Foundation found that only about a third of college students feel they will graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the job market and in the workplace. In addition, Bloomberg Next found that only 35% of employers feel that new recruits are prepared with both hard technical skills and “soft” skills like problem solving.
While these statistics are prompting a wide sweeping self-evaluation on the part of both the higher ed and business sectors, there, from a Zoom box in the left corner, I could only say “Where’ve you been?” Good thing I was on mute.
Since 1897, the year Bay Path was established, our programs have been intentionally designed to sync up with the workforce needs of our region’s leading industries. As an institution that’s been tightly woven into the fabric of the Springfield region, its storied industrial past, its eras of reinvention, and its continual resilience, Bay Path’s connection to an area that’s experienced all the expansions, contractions, shifts, and pivots that have shaped the American economy, grants us a rare vantage point and assigns us a crucial role.
As a longtime partner to the businesses and organizations here, we are always looking at regional demographics and economic trends, anticipating change, and cultivating partnerships with employers. This tradition is carried to our current undergraduate students—100% women, 40% students of color, and 44% first-generation, as we ensure they’re part of a talent pipeline, fully prepared to step into roles that will propel them toward a productive and growth-oriented career.
Lest we forget, Bay Path started as a business school, training students to take newly formed office roles that required them to have new, specific clerical and technical skills. We’ve come a long way, but that objective to provide students with jobs, businesses with skilled employees and communities with an active and engaged citizenry is reiterated over and over throughout our 125-year history.
Today, with UMass Amherst, Springfield College, and Holyoke Community College, we’re bringing that objective to the newly formed Western Massachusetts Anchor Collaborative, working with employers including Baystate Health, Big Y, and Comcast to “foster equitable communities, strong local economies, jobs, and healthier employees and residents.”
While we’re grounded in our local community, technology has enabled us to extend our mission by working with global industry leaders, who help to shape our curriculum and provide expanded opportunities to our learners. In 2018, we partnered with Google to pilot their offerings through our new Applied Computing series, teaching the foundations of computer and data science. Students received hands-on, project-based course content; worked with Google engineers to learn about the tech industry’s working environments, challenges, and nuances; and immersed themselves in a project-based curriculum to help reinforce computer and data science principles.
Now, we’re focused on bringing our expertise into new collaborations that will give workers throughout the country at companies including Bank of America, Home Depot, Raytheon, and T-Mobile the opportunity to experience the uniqueness of a Bay Path education. Our programs and degrees give students necessary “hard” skills, while also imparting them with leadership capabilities, cooperative approaches, and close support networks; hallmarks of the distinct education women’s colleges provide.
At this point, with 125 years of experience and partnerships, we don’t really need to reinvent our own wheel, and instead, we can focus on strengthening, refining, and expanding what we’ve built. We’re looking forward to distinguishing ourselves in this increasingly crowded landscape. And, I’m confident we will.
Welcome to my official blog as President of Bay Path University. I’ll be using this space to share ideas, research, and perspectives connected to Bay Path and our unique role as an innovative, transformative institution. Through this blog, I hope to encourage dialogue and inspire critical thinking about topics that impact our mission, our students, and our community.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you and invite you to join the discussion. My inbox is always open firstname.lastname@example.org.