WGU initiative aims to boost job prospects

Alison Bell is the chancellor of WGU Indiana. (photo courtesy of WGU Indiana)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The chancellor of WGU Indiana says a new initiative from the university will help students find ways to do more with the degree they earn. WGU is partnering with Idaho-based labor market analytics firm Emsi to connect the skills and competencies students acquire with real-world jobs. Using Emsi’s Open Skills Library, WGU says it will match its curriculum with a list of workforce-relevant skills to “tailor the student learning journey even further.”

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Bell said the initiative will bring a big benefit for students.

“Job seekers want to know that the skills that they’ve learned in their educational experience will translate into successful career and promotion opportunities,” said Bell. “So, that creation of this personalized learning pathway that incorporates skills and competencies will help the students match the credentials that they have with what employers want.”

The Open Skills Library, according to WGU, identifies nearly 30,000 skills from hundreds of millions of job postings, resumes, and professional profiles. The library is updated every two weeks and will use artificial intelligence to match those skills with WGU’s curriculum.

“(We want) to help learners make a direct connection not only between their learning experience and the degree program that they’re enrolled in and their next-step career opportunity,” said Bell. “(It) also helps them to uncover some opportunities they may not have realized. So if there’s a connection between the skills that they’re gaining and some careers that they never even considered, that opens up more opportunities, which is always good.”

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WGU says the partnership will highlight the workforce relevance of a degree from the university.

“There is a lot of inefficiency in the labor market because three critical sectors – people, businesses and higher ed – have struggled to understand each other,” Luke Jankovic, executive vice president of higher education for Emsi, said in a news release. “Essentially, they need to speak the same language and we believe skills is that language. WGU is a real trailblazer in this work and their model is one of the truly innovative practices in higher ed today. We are eager to support this work so that more people can be connected to good work and so more good work can find the talent it needs to succeed.”

Bell says the skills that Hoosier employers are looking for depends on the industry and are ever-changing, which makes a partnership like the one with Emsi more relevant.