Interview with Peter Stokes, author of Higher Education and Employability: New Models for Integrating Study and Work, which was awarded the 2016 Phillip E. Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Professional, Continuing, and/or Online Education
Peter Stokes, Ph.D, has focused his career on research, strategy, and consulting related to the needs of institutions of higher education. Currently, he is managing director, Huron Consulting. He has previously held positions as vice president of global strategy and business development at Northeastern University; executive director in the higher education practice at Russell Reynolds Associates; executive vice president and chief research officer at Eduventures, Inc.; among other positions.

The following clips are from an interview with Peter Stokes that took place at Northwestern University on June 23, 2016.

How did your career path lead you to the topic of higher education and employability?

Peter Stokes describes his own path in higher education and discusses the origins of his book, Higher Education and Employability: New Models for Integrating Study and Work. Click here for video.


The co-op model­—what is it and how is it gaining momentum?

The co-op model is over a hundred years old. At Northeastern University, students spend a total of 18 months gaining paid professional experience. Other institutions offer variations of the co-op model, which is gaining currency as higher education becomes more engaged with issues of employability. Click here for video.


Why are relations between universities and business sometimes uneasy or strained?

Higher education institutions have a long history of forging relations and collaborations with business. But those relations can often be uneasy or strained due to conflicting priorities. Understandably, universities are reluctant to allow employers to drive the curriculum because students need knowledge and skills that will last beyond a particular job. Click here for video.


In your book, you focus on schools with long histories of employer partnerships. How can administrators at other schools move in that direction?

Stokes’s book focuses on Northeastern University, Georgia Tech, and New York University, all of which can be viewed as leaders in employer partnerships. He gives advice to administrators at other institutions who want to move forward. Click here for video.


There’s been considerable start-up activity related to services provided to universities. Do you have advice on how administrators can choose wisely among the many varied options?

Stokes describes three different models of how universities might identify which start-ups are most appropriate for their needs. Click here for video.


What are the boundary issues affecting the partnerships between universities and businesses?

There’s a natural tension in partnerships with employers, so each university must decide where to draw boundary lines. The best partnerships are those built upon integration and genuine collaboration, where neither side seeks complete control. Click here for video.


How do universities and employers both need to change to develop genuine collaboration in their partnerships?

Universities can’t just depend on faculty to build relationships with industry. To achieve scale, institutions must develop new administrative functions to support employer relationships. Employers, on their part, need to clarify exactly what they need from a university in terms of skills that are required for work success. Click here for video.


How does the impetus for real-world experience extend beyond business and careers?


Experiential learning is not limited to work or professional experience. It can also extend to service learning and study abroad. Universities need to think about ways of developing the whole person, not just the student’s earning potential. Click here for video.


What are universities and other institutions doing to help students choose a career path that fits them?

Exposing students to possible careers needs to start as early as middle school. States and nonprofit organizations are becoming involved in the effort to help students identify careers, while educators are realizing the importance of developing adaptability so that students can adjust to changes in the marketplace over the course of their lifetime. Click here for video.


What kind of innovation is taking place in the area of alumni relations, especially the efforts to engage alumni in the community of learning?

Colleges and universities are doing more to attract their alumni for additional education, as we move closer to the concept of lifelong learning. Schools of all kinds are seeking to engage with alumni in new and deeper ways, including mentoring and utilizing social media to explore new means of communication within the larger community. Click here for video.


Historically, there’s often been a firewall between credit and noncredit programs. How are these boundary lines changing?

The US Department of Education is seeking to foster innovation by creating more permeability between those boundaries. For example, the department is encouraging collaboration between for-profit coding programs and universities, even allowing coding program students to qualify for financial aid. There is also a great deal of innovation with credentialing over multiple platforms, allowing students in both credit and noncredit programs to earn credentials that can boost their career. Click here for video.


How are the states influencing efforts to maximize employability?

State-level administrators have a sense of urgency in viewing education as a means of increasing economic development. At the institution level, concerns about employability occur more organically. In the future, there will likely be a merging of the state concerns and the commitment of institutions to advance economic development. Click here for video.