Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read OCTOBER 2019 — The higher education sector is one of Philadelphia’s main economic engines. As technology and innovation disrupt every industry, Philly’s higher education institutions are revamping their curriculums to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow. The Invest: Philadelphia team recently met with college leaders to explore their efforts around workforce readiness. 

 

Many higher education institutions are focusing on emerging fields and professions to meet the needs of local and international businesses. “There’s no question that professions like technology, medical, and financial services lead to gainful employment in today’s society,” Aaron Walton, president of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, told Invest:

“A lot of our strategic planning aims to reshape our academic focus toward the jobs of the future. We’re talking about becoming a 21st century model institution in which there’s significant emphasis on the quest for excellence in academics, character and social responsibility. We are placing particular emphasis on the medical services arena,” Walton said. 

According to Pew’s State of Education in Philadelphia 2019 report, 28% of Philadelphians 25 or older have at least a bachelor’s degree — a lower percentage than in many U.S. cities — and 16 percent of Philadelphians have completed some college credits but do not have a degree. 

Aside from including new, innovative programs many schools are also reimaging the learning environment. “Twenty-first century learning has evolved dramatically, and so, too, have our learning spaces. Starting with our Business and Public Management Center, which we opened two years ago, the Sciences & Engineering Center and The Commons, and renovations such as Anderson Hall, West Chester University’s buildings are now being built to reinvigorate the learning environment based on the technological tools that students need to be successful,” Christopher Fiorentino, president of West Chester University, told Invest:. 

Due to the major presence of biomedical and pharmaceutical companies in the Philadelphia region there is a need for graduates in the life sciences and biomedical engineering arena. Widener University is helping students to advance into high-paying jobs through its health sciences, engineering and sciences programs. 

“Widener’s robotics engineering undergraduate program launched in fall 2018 and we opened a new state-of-the-art robotics laboratory with funding from a generous donor. We have also introduced a new occupational therapy doctoral program, which will be housed in a completely renovated building that will open in fall 2019,” said Widener’s President Julie E. Wollman in a recent interview with the Invest: Philadelphia team. 

Community colleges are also embracing innovative academic programs to provide qualified talent to the local pool. That is the case of Delaware County Community College, which is developing new methods to meet the needs of its students and integrating apprenticeship programs with regional business and industry partners.

“Technology has changed the way that we deliver education. We have an extensive Advanced Technology Center, which helps students navigate opportunities in areas such as manufacturing,  welding, transportation, logistics, automotive, advanced technology, skilled trades and others. Every program that we offer is infused with technology. That is what is changing the landscape; every career involves technology,” Joy Gates Black, president of Delaware County Community College, told Invest:. 

It is projected that 75 million to 375 million workers globally may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills, according to a McKinsey & Company report. It is also expected that 8 to 9 percent of 2030 labor demand will be in new types of occupations that have not existed before.

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania: https://cheyney.edu/ 

West Chester University: https://www.wcupa.edu/ 

Widener University: https://www.widener.edu/ 

Delaware County Community College: https://www.dccc.edu/