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Successfully staffing higher education for what's next.
Our nation’s colleges and universities are under significant pressure to adapt to economic pressures and fluctuating enrollments due to post pandemic uncertainties. This is a tall task as they attempt to hire the right mix of a faculty and staff to prepare nervous students to enter a capricious labor market.
Presidents, provosts, and deans are actively balancing new demand for alternative career pathways, virtual instruction programs, students’ demand for ROI in their education against their institution's financial outlook.
This turbulence includes juggling the appropriate onsite or remote staffing levels for tenured faculty, adjunct talent, and support staff.
As a former university president, dean, and professor, I know that rightsizing higher education can feel like a moving target. But tackling the challenge of preparing our future workforce with the skills they need to access the careers of the future is imperative—both for the student and the survivability of the institution.
Innovative leaders are considering three ubiquitous changes impacting the value proposition for higher education:
01. Fluctuating enrollment.
As enrollment fluctuates due to economic pressures and shifts in the demand for certain careers, so must an institution’s workforce expand and contract. Deans are endlessly pivoting to adjust the right blend of talented instructors to meet student demand for skills required in the local job market. Meanwhile, human resource departments are evaluating appropriate levels of the support staff—particularly office, custodial, and IT roles. Flexibility is key.
02. Degree and credentialing offerings.
More and more companies are foregoing traditional degree requirements and hiring workers with skills-based credentials tied to specific careers. Some companies are even creating their own credentialing programs and reskilling their own high potential talent. Depending how you look at it, this is either competition for higher ed or an opportunity. Partnerships can be forged to provide alternative career pathways, micro credentials, stackable credentials, and other short forms of learning via local course work or virtual instruction. These options are emerging as viable solutions to costly four-year degree programs that prevent people with economic barriers from entering higher education.
In September 2021, Opportunity America issued The Indispensable Institution – Reimagining Community Colleges. In the sweeping report, President Tamar Jacoby said, “As the nation rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic, millions of Americans will need fast, job-focused upskilling and reskilling before they can return to work. No institution is better positioned to take up the challenge than the nation’s 1,100 two-year community and technical colleges.”
03. Evolving instruction modalities.
It is clear that the pandemic expanded the availability of virtual instruction. As a result, we now know that some students prefer online learning or a hybrid approach. We are only beginning to innovate these technologies in education. Skills once thought impossible to teach virtually, such as nursing, public speaking, and laboratory sciences are now simply at our fingertips. Collaboration by instructional designers, content experts, videographers, interactive technologists, and coordinated by a qualified educator, are delivering new and exciting educational experiences. This evolution also has the benefit of expediting students’ entry into the workforce as they consume knowledge at their own pace.
As change continues to manifest, higher education workforce experts see the bigger picture.
At Kelly Education, we partner with higher education leaders to strategize how to delicately balance the variables at play in their own institutions and diverse communities. There is no “one size fits all” solution.
- Recruiting a virtual faculty. We all know that some states or regions specialize in certain industries. Houston –for oil and gas. Silicon Valley–for tech. Wisconsin–for dairy. Recruiting and hiring adjunct specialty talent from regions where this professional expertise exists can be difficult. Our higher ed practice brings in adjunct faculty from Fortune 100 companies, well-known higher ed institutions, and forward-thinking research organizations—making geography a non-issue.
- Administrative partnership. As staffing needs fluctuate, managing compliance and flexibility is complicated. Add to that, the increased requirements with a remote workforce and faculty who teach virtually across state boundaries, institutions with limited HR departments are likely strained. In addition to hiring, payroll, workers’ comp claims, and credentialing, Kelly brings 75 years of experience to multi-state wage, tax liability, and contract compliance responsibilities. We customize solutions so that we’re not only achieving cost savings, but also mindful of an institution’s goal of providing the best academic experiences for students.
At Kelly Education, we believe that education is the bedrock of a thriving community. As we all adapt to the evolution caused by the pandemic, of this we can be certain—the future of work will require problem solvers and critical thinkers who pursue lifelong learning. That’s what is needed to thrive in tomorrow’s job market.
It’s our mission at Kelly Education to partner with academic institutions to fortify them during these winds of change so together we can help educate, evolve, and enrich the modern workforce.
About the Author: Michael Plater, Ph.D. is a distinguished leader with 30+ years in academia, holding positions as university president, provost, dean, and professor. As vice president of Kelly Education, Dr. Plater is a strategic business partner to administrators at institutions of higher education. His passion is helping to solve the economic pressures of talent-related challenges for colleges and universities around the globe.
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