Guest Commentator: Christopher M. Fiorentino, Ph.D., President, West Chester University@WCUofPA

How can the Pennsylvania business community work with higher education organizations to prepare our students and citizenry for 21st century jobs and create new pathways for lifelong learning?

The World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of today’s kindergarteners will work in completely new types of jobs when they graduate from college. If you’re surprised by this, think about the fact that search engine specialists, app designers, and Cloud services specialists were virtually unheard of a decade ago.

Consider, too, that research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Americans switch jobs almost 12 times between the ages of 18 and 48. That number is only expected to increase. In order to realize our goal of a sustainable and prosperous economy throughout Pennsylvania, we must develop a nimble, adept workforce with easily transferable skills.

Throughout my career, I have turned to business executives for their insights into how educators can achieve this objective.  I have had many thought-provoking discussions about how to effectively prepare students for the workforce. What I hear over and over again is that critical thinking, quantitative and qualitative reasoning, writing and speaking fluently, working as part of a team, behaving ethically, and having the ability to thrive in a diverse, global society are the most vital skills.

Two years ago, when I became president of West Chester University, one of the first things I did was to assemble an advisory board of area business and community leaders. I asked them to take a hard look at everything this university does, to help us ensure that WCU graduates are ready to contribute from day one on the job. We owe our graduates, and owe you, no less.

The members of my advisory board have gone above and beyond in contributing their time, talent, and energies to this institution. They are providing valuable counsel at a most opportune time — the university is in the midst of a major revision to the general education curriculum.

The moral of this story is that the business community needs to be willing to engage with higher education to help us prepare graduates for the workforce. Advising on curriculum is one way to engage. Providing internship opportunities, speaking in classes, and serving as mentors are other ways. Collaboration between higher education and the business community is an excellent way to improve desired outcomes. If a local college or university asks to tap into your insights and expertise, please consider lending a hand. It’s win-win for all of us when we work together.

West Chester University is champion of Grow PA, a statewide initiative to convene people and organizations throughout Pennsylvania to establish a modern economic growth agenda. To learn more, visit

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