Build a foundation for successful employer partnerships

Expert Insight

Build a foundation for successful employer partnerships


61% of employers cite ‘finding qualified experienced hires’ as among the biggest challenges in talent acquisition

Well-built employer partnerships offer a dual value proposition: colleges and universities increase their revenue and recognition, while regional companies get high-quality employee education at scale. Most institutions, however, aren’t set up to create lasting and mutually beneficial employer partnerships. Faculty and administrators often underestimate the resources required, employers often fail to clearly articulate their needs, and each side finds the other’s organization hard to navigate. 

How expectations of employer partnerships differ from reality

Truth: Few employees use available tuition reimbursement benefits.

Despite 51% of employers offering some form of tuition reimbursement, it’s estimated fewer than 5% of employees actually use it.

Truth: Successful partnerships require dedicate attention.

Adult and professional education units with dedicated B2B partnership staff earn an average of 122% more revenue from tuition reimbursement and contract training. In real dollars, that amounts to over $900k annually.

Truth: Employers anticipate providing training themselves.

Eighty-three percent of companies rate “reinventing corporate learning” as a top priority.

Higher ed leaders see employer partnerships as an effective means of generating new revenue and significant enrollment gains while reducing marketing and recruitment costs. Media attention on high-profile partnerships results in many leaders pursuing partnership creation with impossibly high expectations, however, while other institutions underestimate the resources required to build and sustain a partnership.

To better respond to employers’ needs today, campus stakeholders should understand how the current labor market impacts employers and their staff. This environment creates strong opportunity for professional and adult education units to attract employer partnerships, but partnerships will be more successful if crafted to meet emerging or unaddressed needs. The post-recession economy has put additional pressure on employee training, particularly in a tight labor market with greater need to source talent internally.

The hiring cycle is longer than it was pre-recession, and a growing number of employers expect employees to perform well immediately upon hiring. The following forces compound this talent challenge:

Today’s talent challenge is felt most acutely by middle managers, an audience that professional and adult education units are uniquely suited to serve.

Explore models for partnership

Professional and adult education leaders primarily consider two models of employer partnership: tuition reimbursement and customized trainings for individual employers. While these are the most common models for partnership, progressive institutions are creating new and less resource-intensive ways to partner with employers, from a simulated day at work to contracting students for work at local companies.

Create the on-campus infrastructure to support employer partnerships

Building successful employer partnerships takes significant time and organization, typically unmanageable as an ad-hoc assignment. Many campus groups maintain industry relationships, which requires internal coordination. Additionally, employers need help navigating the complex organization of higher education institutions.

Review the related Roadmap for direction on how to:

  • Dedicate staff to building partnerships
  • Coordinate across campus to make it easy for employers to work with you
  • Build a comprehensive menu of partnership options

Identify high-potential employer partners and plan your pitch

Most professional and adult education teams make the same mistakes when considering potential partners: they waste resources chasing attractive but hard-to-access brands, spend time cold calling with little success, or wait for inbound interest, allocating scarce staff time to evaluating often lackluster leads. Successful institutions use data to identify high-potential partners and strategically plan their pitch around an employer’s specific needs.

Review the related Roadmap for strategies to:

  • Source warm partnership leads
  • Determine an employer’s needs to develop targeted training partnership proposals
  • Approach employers at times of critical need

EAB asks you to accept cookies for authorization purposes, as well as to track usage data and for marketing purposes. To get more information about these cookies and the processing of your personal information, please see our Privacy Policy. Do you accept these cookies and the processing of your personal information involved?