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.

To view the accompanying webinar, click here.

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.

Communications Director
Related Research & Resources
Demand for Allied Health Workers
In this report, we analyze the barriers limiting our supply of allied health professionals and offer solutions for addressing an anticipated annual shortage of up to 37,000 workers. Among the most significant challenges at hand are pipeline “bottlenecks,” wherein more students are trying to fulfill their required clinical hours than there are clinical hours available. The report identifies key strategies to meet the need for clinical placements as well as solutions specific to the bottleneck issue.
California Competes
student graduation
Californians with postsecondary degrees have consistently fared better than those without college credentials, and that’s especially true now during the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, because of their sustained employment, college-educated Californians have helped buoy the state’s economy.
California Competes
college student graduate
Our 2020 policy priorities advocate for equitable postsecondary and workforce opportunities and outcomes to ensure our state’s regional economies and communities can weather this crisis, recover quickly, and withstand future threats. Focused on safeguarding and enhancing the future of underserved communities across the state, this platform lays out key strategies to ensure postsecondary education is truly a vehicle for economic and social mobility in California.
California Competes