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Tackling the education-to-employment gap

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Oct 13, 2016

Earlier this year, CareerBuilder and Capella Learning Solutions announced an innovative partnership, RightSkill, to bridge the growing talent gap in the United States.

The partnership is intriguing. Bringing Capella’s competency-based learning—in which learning becomes the constant and time becomes the variable—together with the real-time labor data of CareerBuilder offers a new way to build a supply of job-ready talent. This new, scalable approach to talent acquisition appears to be one of the more innovative ways on the market of tackling the widening education-to-employment gap. The bold goal, as its tagline says, is to turn “the right person into the right candidate, guaranteed.”

I had the chance to ask Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder, and Kevin Gilligan, CEO of Capella, a series of questions to explore the rationale behind and the mechanics of the partnership.

Q: What were the origins for this idea?

Matt: There’s a significant talent gap in the United States. Millions of people are out of work or underemployed, yet almost half of employers have open positions because they can’t find qualified candidates. Forty-one percent of employers have jobs that stay open for 12 weeks or longer, and the average amount of money lost for every extended vacancy is $14,000. Workers want to get ahead, but not everyone has the time or money to go to a four-year school, and traditional educational programs can’t always keep pace with the sort of transformations we’re seeing in the workplace.

Kevin: For the last few years, we’ve been working really closely with the U.S. Department of Education, and accreditors, to design degree programs that move beyond the credit hour or “seat time” to save students time—and money. That work is in direct response to the demands we’re seeing from both students and employers. But Career Builder’s real-time labor market intelligence flips the model on its head—we’re now able to see exactly what employers are looking for, in real time, and design accelerated, low-cost courses that provide the most direct path between learning and employment outside of a university degree. 

Q: How does the RightSkill program work? How will you match job seekers with employers?

Matt: RightSkill is committed to creating a new talent pool of job-ready candidates by up-skilling and re-skilling workers for in-demand roles in a relatively short period of time. A lot of employers we work with are very excited about this program.

Over the last 20 years, CareerBuilder has been building relationships with millions of job seekers and hundreds of thousands of employers. With RightSkill, we’re offering employers a viable solution to a major challenge they’re facing in recruitment and offering job seekers a path to higher-skill, higher-paying jobs.

We work closely with employers to understand the competencies they need for different jobs, what they look for in candidates, and what’s getting in the way of filling their positions. We then look to our database of over 60 million job seekers and utilize our additional sourcing and screening tools to find job seekers with the right attitude and aptitude.

Qualified job seekers are enrolled in a RightSkill learning experience to learn, refine, and practice their job-ready skills. Our learning experiences combine career coaching with online course content, assignments and applied learning activities. To become a RightSkill candidate, the job seeker must pass an expert-built assessment to verify their job-ready skills.

Once verified, our RightSkill candidates are set up to interview with employers. We are confident in our candidates, and they are guaranteed a job offer within 90 days of completing a course.

We also guarantee our candidates to employers—if an employer decides our candidate is not the right fit, or the candidate chooses to leave within our guarantee period, we will replace them.

Q: What work skills will RightSkill seek to fill?

Kevin: Every day, we’re actively monitoring demand to identify areas where we can make an impact. Our initial courses are focused on retail management, customer service, technical support, front-end web development, information security, and systems administration. 

Q: Why this move? Why now?

Kevin: There is a significant supply and demand imbalance in the marketplace. Employers want people with 21st-century skills. The unbundling of education is real, and we see the shift toward accelerated, lower-cost higher education alternatives as the future.

Because we have invested so heavily in digital, competency-based education over the last 20 years, our programs are already, in many ways really well positioned for that trend. We’ve always paid very close attention to the demands of the labor market, but access to CareerBuilder data dramatically accelerates—and takes the guesswork out of—the process.

Q: Why the partnership with Capella?

Matt: Capella has been digital and competency-based for two decades. They had already moved down the path of eliminating seat-time as a barrier for students. They have shown they can move quickly and have the technology infrastructure in place to make a partnership like this work.

CareerBuilder operates one of the largest job sites in the country, which means we have collected billions of data points on employers and job seekers over the last two decades. In 2012, we acquired a company called Economic Modeling Specialists, Intl (Emsi). Emsi’s economists and data scientists gather data from more than 100 national and local employment resources to provide analysis of current and historical labor market trends dating back to 2001. They can also provide up to 10-year employment projections across occupations, industries and locations. Combining CareerBuilder and Emsi’s data, we’re able to identify where the talent gaps are today and where they’ll be more pronounced tomorrow. For example, we know that the average number of monthly job postings for information security analysts is outpacing the average number of monthly hires by more than 30,000. We also know that information security analyst jobs are expected to grow 11 percent over the next five years, well above the national average.

Pairing CareerBuilder’s data insights and relationships with employers and job seekers with Capella’s competency-based learning can help address a big problem in the American labor market.

Q: How did you originally learn about competency-based learning? Did you have concerns about this approach?

Matt: Competency-based learning is a proven educational model. Many people have had success with this approach and we believe it will be an effective way to address the skills gap at scale.

So far, over 300 people have completed the RightSkill program with hundreds more enrolled, and we have already begun placing candidates with companies.

For more, see:

Michael B. Horn

Michael is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently works as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions.

  • Robert Columbia

    I applied to RightSkill’s Retail Management program earlier this year but did not hear back on my application. Is there a way to find out what it was that I lacked and if there is a Competency-Based Assessment that I can take to demonstrate that I have what it takes to complete the associated RightSkill learning experience and succeed? I’m not asking for help completing the coursework or final assessment – I seem to be stuck in the application process and flailing around with no feedback.