Last month the Penn Foster team traveled to Pasadena, CA and Austin, TX for the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools 32nd Annual Conference in Pasadena, CA, and the Career Colleges and Schools of Texas 2016 Annual Conference in Austin, TX. At these two regional conferences, leaders in the private postsecondary education space discussed opportunities for growth and innovation in the industry. This year, the two conferences shared a common theme in their emphasis on student outcomes. New Department of Education regulations are placing an increased emphasis on job placement and retention, and schools are keen to explore sustainable avenues improve these metrics. Below we highlight several of the solutions proposed at these conferences to strengthen student outcomes:

Form strategic collaborations in your community

Workforce boards, economic development agencies, and government organizations are just a few of the external stakeholders happy to invest in the success of your students. A strong pool of skilled trade workers contributes to the overall economic health of your state, county, and city. Partnerships with the aforementioned organizations could take many shapes, but ultimately would serve both of your interests. You could partner with career centers to place students in jobs and apprenticeships, and work with government agencies to create grants and scholarships for in-demand skills training.

Foster workplace competencies beyond technical training

Soft skills such as communication, teamwork, integrity, and problem solving are critical for success in the workplace, yet HR professionals cite that these are often the #1 competencies lacking in new hires.1 Invest in a career readiness solution that is designed to help your students develop the essential employability skills needed for long-term success. These skills can not only help differentiate your graduates as they search for a job, but can improve job retention rates after they are hired.

Create strong ties with local employers

Recruiting skilled employees is a significant expense for employers of all sizes. Reach out to local employers via social media, networking events, or within your alumni pool to create meaningful relationships. This could include hosting job fairs for these employers on campus, housing a job board that all students can easily access, or simply leveraging your career services team to refer qualified students. Career colleges can also work with employers closely on curriculum development to ensure they are teaching the required skills that will allow graduates to get an entry-level job.

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Resources: Photo credit. (1) America's Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future