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Peer Tutoring Talent Pipelines: The Future of College Recruiting

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Go to College → Earn a Degree → Get a Job. Is that how the system still works? 

Let’s just say, “it’s complicated.”

While this once seemed to be a simple process, it has grown increasingly complex. In their report, “Education to Employment: Designing a System that Works,” McKinsey found that young people are three times more likely than their parents to be out of work. Concurrently, they found a critical skills shortage: only 43% of employers surveyed across nine countries, including the United States, agreed they could find enough skilled entry-level workers. Similarly,  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) found that only 11% of business leaders are confident college graduates are prepared for the workforce, compared to 96% of chief academic officers in higher education.

Both of these studies direct us to conceptualize a new systemic solution: Talent Pipeline Programs. In particular, their efforts focus on guiding skills development to close the skills gap and empowering employers to lead the way with improved strategies that create success for everyone. Simply put, employers need to become more involved with what students are learning.

We already know that peer learning programs help to close the skills gap, but is there a way they can help employers implement talent pipeline partnerships as well? Absolutely.

Hire Career-Ready Candidates

Peer tutoring talent pipelines help employers ensure they are able to hire candidates ready for their industry. By enabling peer learning, employers are able to encourage desired skills development, identify qualified candidates, and win top talent. Furthermore, programs that provide employers with consistent opportunities to engage with students allow for meaningful relationships to be created with prospective employees through a demonstrated commitment to their success.

The more engaged an employer can be, the better the results they will see. The McKinsey study concluded that employers who engage the most, and the earliest, have the best outcomes. With the positive outcomes in education to employment not being the norm, the size of this group of employers is small but mighty. In fact, just 31% of employers are able to successfully meet their talent needs. These employers reach out regularly to education providers and youth, offering time, skills, and money. The minimally engaged employers (44%) struggled the most to find desired candidates and the remaining 25% of employers were somewhat engaged but ultimately ineffective.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation recommends a talent pipeline framework where employers drive value creation, organize and manage scalable network partnerships, and measure and incentivize performance. Here, employers are the heroes who lead the way to change. With peer tutoring talent pipelines, employers are able to directly impact what students are learning, while building relationships with potential future employees.

Close The Skills Gap

Peer tutoring talent pipelines also help to close the skills gap. Employers are not only able to support students who are learning target skills, but can provide insight to institutions as to what these target skills are in their industry. As top student performers emerge, they serve as peer tutors, further developing their own leadership potential. Then, as these tutors grow in their expertise and skill sets, their demonstrated value sets them apart in the eyes of employers.

Why should employers play a role in helping end the skills gap? McKinsey discovered three reasons when they surveyed employers and education providers. First, it is employers who are much clearer in their ranking of the relative importance of various skills. Next, employers note a discrepancy between what they require and what they see in candidates. In other words, they rank the competence of new employees in each of the skills lower than the importance they assign to it. Third, there is a large gap between the perspectives of employers and education providers on the competence of new employees in some skills. This is especially true in the areas of theoretical and hands-on training, problem-solving, and computer literacy. 

Peer tutoring talent pipeline programs keep employers regularly engaged, which is key to success. McKinsey found that almost half of employers surveyed did not work with education providers in areas such as curriculum design and teacher design and, of those that did, only a minority reported being in touch at least once a month. However, it was determined that such interactions should be “frequent and intense” to improve the chances of success. 

Build For The Future

Peer tutoring talent pipelines are built for the hiring needs of the future. In addition to the McKinsey study findings and recommendations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) is championing a new vision for employer engagement with education and workforce systems. Their work includes improving the transition to employment for students, scaling employer practices to close the skills gap, and creating new kinds of partnerships with workforce and education providers.  

These kinds of initiatives appeal to Generation Z. This is important, since they will make up 40% of the population and 20% of the workforce by 2020. What are they looking for? 

According to the McKinsey survey, 58% of youth said that practical, hands-on learning is an effective approach to training. However, only 24% of academic-program graduates and 37% of vocational graduates said that they spend most of their time in this manner. 

Programs like peer tutoring talent pipelines, then, become a strong offering for the kind of practical, hands-on learning today’s students are looking for because of their focus on known industry skills with a clear path to internships and careers. These programs are also better equipped to meet the needs McKinsey identified for a better education-to-employment system, such as the introduction of new incentives and structures, the ability to scale up, and the implementation of innovative partnerships. 

What’s an example of this modern trend? Shell and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign have partnered to create The Shell Tutoring Program in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Programs like these model success for employers, education providers, and related partners.