Innovation, Innovation Cases & Models, Product & Solutions Development

An Opportunity for Association Leaders: Bridging the Education to Employment Gap



A crisis is brewing in the global education-to-employment system. Higher education is experiencing massive disruption. Americans currently hold over $1.23 trillion dollars in student debt. Public funding for education is decreasing at both the K-12 and post-secondary levels.  

Students and educators disagree about what a college education is supposed to accomplish, the value of a four-year degree, and whether or not college is
properly preparing young people for the workforce.

At the same time, one-third of employers report struggling to find qualified workers. The Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce estimates that, by 2020, over 20 million jobs in the US will be unfilled because Americans lack the necessary preparation.

Employers report a substantial skills gap, particularly among new hires, whether they are recent graduates and workers who are retraining for new careers. What those workers are missing is 21st century skills: critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written communications, teamwork, ethical conduct, decision-making, and the ability to apply knowledge.

In short, there is a significant and growing gap between education and employment.

In their recently released whitepaper, The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm, Shelly Alcorn (Alcorn Associates Management Consulting) and Elizabeth Weaver Engel (Spark Consulting) review the substantial body of research on the changes occurring in both education and employment and argue that associations are uniquely suited
to bridging the growing education-to-employment gap.

According to Alcorn and Engel, the association advantage includes:   



    •                Direct connection to and relationship with employers in our relative sectors


    •        Experience with certification and credentialing,supplements or even alternatives to four-year degrees that are gaining popularity and respect


    •        Speed and flexibility, at least in comparison to  hidebound higher education


    •        “Halo” effect of our nonprofit status in the marketplace versus the many shady for-profit providers


    •        Experience with non-traditional students and educational settings



The whitepaper also features sidebars by Tracy Petrillo (EDUCAUSE) on competency-based education and Polly Siobahn Karpowicz on recent ASAE
Foundation-funded, ASAE Research Committee-sponsored initiatives in this area, and case studies of four associations doing innovative work preparing their
stakeholders for the future of employment.

Alcorn and Engel also provide practical advice for associations that are ready to take an active role in reshaping education, the employment market, and lifetime learning for the professions and industries we serve


 Download your free copy of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm at