Experts say enhanced collaboration between higher education and industry is necessary to meet workforce demands

Liza Wilson Durant, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement at the Volgenau School of Engineering. Photo by Lathan Goumas/Strategic Communications

George Mason University’s Liza Wilson Durant was among a group of academic and industry experts discussing ways to make college education more relevant to the needs of the 21st-century workforce during a roundtable discussion organized by the Chronicle of Higher Education in late October.

Improved partnership between higher education and employers would make those partnerships more effective, strategic and sustainable by helping to bridge the current technological skills gap, they concluded.

Wilson Durant, associate dean of strategic initiatives and community engagement for the Volgenau School of Engineering, spoke about Mason’s collaborative approach to education. Mason was among the first universities in the Washington, D.C., region to launch the digital technology credential in partnership with Capital Collaborative of Leaders in Academia and Business (CoLAB) that will assure its students of having the digital skills necessary to compete in today’s workforce.

“George Mason has a history of developing curricula to support the tremendous Northern Virginia industry and federal government sector,” Wilson Durant said, citing the engineering school’s cyber security engineering degree developed in partnership with Northrop Grumman and others.

Joining Wilson Durant on the panel were Jeanne Contardo, the managing director of the CoLAB; Ken Eisner, the director of worldwide education programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS); Brian K. Fitzgerald, the chief executive officer of the Business-Higher Education Forum; Rajni Goel, a professor at Howard University’s business school who previously served as chair of its Information Systems and Supply Chain Management Department; and Laura W. Hanson, the associate vice president for corporate solutions and apprenticeship at Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia. The Chronicle’s Ian Wilhelm served as the panel moderator.

Read the report here