Insights from the Field: Barriers & Opportunities for Building Higher Education–Employer Partnerships


Effective higher education–employer partnerships are central to improving student employment outcomes, ensuring workforce needs are met, and boosting the state’s economic strength and competitiveness. But given the complexity of California’s higher education and workforce ecosystems, it is challenging to make such engagements a common and core part.

As efforts and investments to build bridges between higher education and employers grow, this brief shares the main factors that hinder meaningful engagements and sets the foundation toward actionable solutions.

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key findings
  1. Higher education and employers encounter multiple challenges in establishing meaningful connections despite the increasing recognition of their importance and significant investments in fostering alignment and coordination between the education and workforce systems.
  2. The main barriers that impede meaningful engagement stem from cross-cutting misalignments in cultures, structures, and values.
  3. Interviewees noted that motivated individuals navigate these challenges in many ways, including by:
    • Identifying and building off shared interests and goals,

    • Creating multiple roles across campus, particularly for faculty, that include cross-sector engagement responsibilities,

    • Building spaces—particularly at the regional level and by sector—that spark and nurture engagement between higher education personnel and employers, and

    • Identifying and tailoring messaging to showcase the value proposition of engagement.

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