Analysis by SHP highlights the gap between the region’s talent need and what is—and isn’t—being offered by local colleges pointing Gateway Community & Technical College toward alignment of its future offerings.
As the world continues to change at a mind-bending pace, colleges are forced to adapt if they are to survive, let alone thrive.
Recently, this sentiment was perfectly captured by the President and CEO of Gateway Community & Technical College, Dr. Fernando Figueroa in a letter to stakeholders: “Our economy is changing, our way of life is changing, and certainly, the way we educate our students is changing. With this in mind, Gateway is rethinking its programs, its education delivery model, as well as where and when we deliver knowledge.”
Of course, the challenge lies in determining exactly how Gateway—or any college for that matter—should change so that they and their students thrive. Colleges can, of course, make these critical decisions based on broadly reported trends and prognostications, or they can choose to dive deep into refined local data to shape their intentionally inclusive plans.
This is exactly what SHP helped Gateway do in the first phase of an innovative, four-phase process to align the region’s talent needs with the college’s academic strategy, facilities plan and financial roadmap. With the help of a regional economist and financial/data analyst, our team provided Gateway with a research-driven approach to support decision-making for its strategic academic vision post-2020.
Finding—and Filling—the Gaps
With a fact-based understanding of what the 10-year supply and demand of talent looks like in its region, SHP’s data analytics team helped Gateway conduct a “gap analysis.” This identified what jobs would be in demand in the region, compared with the programs currently being offered by Gateway and other institutions in the area. The gap between the region’s talent need and what is—and isn’t—being offered highlighted how Gateway could best align its offerings in a future-focused manner.
It’s worth noting that our analysis didn’t focus on just any jobs, but, at the request of Dr. Figueroa and his team, only those that offered a living wage, meaning at or above the current median wage for jobs in their area, roughly one paying at least $18.45 per hour.
“We were inspired by Dr. Figueroa’s commitment to preparing students for jobs that would allow them to earn above minimum wage and, thereby, gain a far greater return on their college investment,” said Tom Fernandez, AIA, LEED AP, SHP’s executive vice president of architecture.
In addition to the direct student success values, this data-driven approach should attract the attention of public officials and investment partners, said Figueroa. “With the recent economic challenges brought on by COVID-19, states and local communities will need to focus taxpayer dollars on solutions that provide a more rapid return on investments. At Gateway, we intend to position our students for their post-college success, as well as to facilitate a resulting economic benefit to the region.”
Evaluating the Options
Having an accurate description of the potential career programs that Gateway could offer allows SHP’s planners, architects and engineers to identify what facilities and technologies are required to support those offerings. Working with Gateway, our team can now evaluate a host of possible scenarios—including potential new facilities, repurposed physical assets and income from increased enrollment—and examine the financial impact of each.
“Often college administrators are pressured to add or end programs based on headlines, or what may be ‘hot’ at the moment, even if there isn’t localized data to support that decision,” said Fernandez. “But with the type of deep data we helped Gateway gather and analyze, it’s a lot easier to build consensus around a plan.
“With hard data guiding them, Gateway leadership will rally their various stakeholders around a vision that will enhance student success and guide them to a stronger career path.”
— Tom Fernandez, SHP
By shaping their future with data in a holistic, campus-wide manner, Gateway is avoiding the pitfalls that too often come when information is siloed. This approach ensures a brighter future for their college and the students they serve.