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Bridging the Skills Gap: Strengthening Central Ohio’s Workforce and Economy

Franklin University Franklin University Bridging the Skills Gap: Strengthening Central Ohio’s Workforce and Economy
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Industries across Central Ohio face a growing challenge—a shortage of talent for high-skill jobs. Issues like technology advancement and automation, an aging workforce and a shifting economy are all compounding to make it harder than ever to attract and retain talent.

These circumstances beg the question: How will Columbus bridge the widening workforce gap to sustain economic growth and innovation? 

According to the World Economic Forum, closing the global skills gap could add $11.5 trillion to global GDP by 2028. However, doing so will require systemic change. It will take collaborative efforts across the public, private and government sectors to create education and training systems that address the ever-evolving demands of labor markets.

The Critical Employer-Educator Partnership

Solving the workforce shortage will require both employers and education institutions to invest heavily in advancing professional skills. Companies must be willing to invest in employee training and upskilling. Education institutions must keep pace with the demands of industry, teaching the relevant and technical skills needed to succeed in today’s job market. Breaking down the barriers between employers and educators is fundamental to the success of individual employees, industries and the economy.

But what does this partnership look like? In Central Ohio, Franklin University is working with leading organizations to develop a partnership model that simultaneously benefits employers, employees and their institution. 

FranklinWORKS: A Partnership Program That Builds Skills to Fuel Growth

FranklinWORKS provides Central Ohio employers with educational programs and resources to help them attract, retain and strengthen top-quality talent.

“We had an ‘Aha moment’ that led to the creation of FranklinWORKS,” says Bill Chan, vice president of Strategic Alliances at Franklin University. “We had already created a number of intentional partnerships with organizations like community colleges and the military, but lacked a formalized program with Central Ohio employers. We saw a desire and need for highly skilled talent as Central Ohio’s economy continues to grow and diversify. We wanted to create a program for organizations of any type and size—large corporations, nonprofits, state and local agencies—to help holistically spur growth in our region. It was a natural extension of what we do best, which is creating degree programs designed specifically to teach working professionals in-demand job skills.”

Franklin works directly with Central Ohio employers to develop workplace learning and employee development solutions that increase performance and productivity. The goal is to benefit both the employer and the employee—building the much-needed job skills for today’s workforce while increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty.

What is the cornerstone of the FranklinWORKS program?

“Extreme flexibility,” says Chan. “Every organization we work with has unique needs. When it comes to degrees, we work with employers to offer tuition discounts and degree completion programs at all levels—bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. We develop custom professional development and training programs that help build desired skill sets, while also helping to transfer those credits toward degrees. We also offer in-demand professional certifications to enhance productivity while giving employees a meaningful credential. Whether we’re teaching on-site at an employer’s office, in-person at Franklin’s campus or online, we are tailoring our courses and our methods to meet the needs of both organizations and their employees.”

FranklinWORKS is Helping Central Ohio’s Leading Organizations Meet Industry Demands

Franklin University works with over 100 partner organizations across Central Ohio in notable industries like healthcare, insurance, business, government and technology. FranklinWORKS has created successful partnerships with top organizations, including Nationwide Insurance, OhioHealth, Discover, Cardinal Health and the City of Columbus.

“In some industries, like healthcare, it’s about the degree,” says Chan. “Increasingly, opportunities like promotions and salary increases are dependent on educational attainment. For other industries, technology advancement has been a major disruptor, resulting in a need for training or certifications to keep employees’ skills current. For other companies, building soft skills like communication and leadership are pathways to making their business more successful. We partner with organizations of all kinds to reach these goals.”

Nationwide Insurance, for example, faced a daunting challenge. A formerly dominant programming language, COBOL, was being phased out for Java, a more modern, general-purpose programming language. Nationwide either needed to replace an entire workforce or find an efficient way to update their associates’ skills. Franklin provided a series of courses that delivered foundational Java knowledge in less than two years, allowing employees who completed the program to retain a position as a programmer and become well-positioned for future advancement.

That’s just one example of a successful Franklin University partnership. In the past three years, over 1,400 associates at different organizations have enrolled in Franklin’s degree or certificate programs through the partnership initiative. 

The Future of Education: Incremental Education and Training

Technology advancement and automation will only continue to change the requirements of the workplace and increase demand of entirely new skills. According to a 2019 McKinsey and Company study, by 2030, 85% of current elementary students will work in jobs that don’t exist yet. It’s a rapidly accelerating reality that will necessitate progress at all levels of education.

Lifelong learning and programs like those provided through FranklinWORKS—which promotes incremental education, professional development and training—will be essential.

“Getting your degree is no longer the end of your educational journey,” says Chan. “Some companies are dropping their degree requirement entirely. However, the reality is that it will be difficult to advance to higher levels in an organization without a degree. Gradual education can be a great way to advance. Do what’s right to get you where you want to be right now in your career. Then, you can build your education and skills through employee training, professional development, certificates and degrees as needed for advancement. At Franklin, we aim to make it easy for adults to transfer professional development and previous course credit toward a degree. FranklinWORKS is a pivotal piece of the puzzle and we look forward to continuing to grow our reach in Central Ohio.”

This article is one installment of the Jobs & Education Outlook series, presented with paid support by Franklin University.

Franklin University is an accredited and nonprofit college in Columbus that has been dedicated to educating adults since 1902. The University offers a variety of degree programs that are all available 100% online. For more information, visit franklin.edu.

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