The economically vital connections between businesses and public colleges and universities across the country were the focus of a roundtable discussion held Tuesday at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester.
The roundtable, moderated by Mike Skelton, CEO of the NH Business and Industry Association, and UNH President James W. Dean, UNH President, included Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research & Development in Manchester; Anne Tyrol, chief nursing officer at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene; Ben Laird, HR Manager at Freudenberg Sealing Technologies; Joe Murray, vice president of government relations and public affairs at Fidelity Investments; and Butch Locke, strategic operations director for BAE Systems.
Participants reflected on how New Hampshire’s university system—which includes Keene State College, Plymouth State College, Granite State College and the University of New Hampshire—helps power the workforce by preparing students with the skills and knowledge that businesses around the state are looking for. employees.
The goal of their efforts, Skelton said, “is to ensure a stable economic future for New Hampshire, and our vision is that New Hampshire is the best place to do business in the entire country.”
One sector that appears to be most affected by workforce challenges is health care, and a partnership between Keene State College and Dartmouth health care facilities, such as Cheshire Medical Center, seeks to address it.
“I’ve seen how our collaboration with Keene State has helped (workforce development) using their nursing simulation lab,” Ann Tyrol says. “Continuing to work together to utilize not only the workforce that comes from Keene State, but also the partnership to develop clinical instructors, simulation instructors that will continue to develop our workforce in the future is very important.”
A key tactic post-secondary institutions use to bridge the gap between education and the workforce is internships.
According to Keene State President Melinda Treadwell, “Fifty percent of our students participate in internships. If successful, we will commit to 100 percent of our students being in internship programs, adding twice as much to the future workforce.”
She added that “partnerships are essential. How do we keep our students in New Hampshire? It’s about being involved in our communities; giving them an insight into the workforce to stay.”
Butch Locke of BAE Systems agreed. “The better we can partner with our schools, the better we can connect with students, provide internships, the more likely they are to come work for us,” he said.
At the roundtable, Kamen pointed out how students receive a high-value education in New Hampshire that gives students the skills to join the workforce right out of college, but often we “give them a free pass to go wherever they want,” he said. it would be a real shame if we didn’t work more closely with the university system.”
That sentiment is what drives businesses across the state to work more closely with our state’s colleges to solve their workforce challenges at the source.
“What we’re talking about here is the connective tissue, figuratively speaking, that exists in a very unique way in New Hampshire,” Fidelity’s Murray said. “It’s really special that we can all get together and most of us know each other at this table. You can’t find this anywhere else. We have this ability to connect that other countries can’t.”
Fidelity employs approximately 65,000 people nationwide, Murray said, and 1,200 of them are graduates of the university system.
State budget request
Business leaders and university officials alike say the key to developing the future workforce is money.
They are united in the request for an increase in state funding for the state education system in the 2024-25 state budget.
In USNH’s request, the additional funds will help “expand investment in career services functions to integrate campuses and students into the business community and create more opportunities for students to earn with New Hampshire employers while in school.”
In addition, USNH seeks to “sustain investments that have resulted in five years of fixed tuition and increased aid levels for NH students. These commitments are critical to retaining NH high school students seeking post-secondary education.”
Under the USNH request, funding would increase to $95.2 million in FY 2024 and $104.2 million in FY 2025. Currently, funding is $88.5 million, among the lowest amounts provided by any to be a state in the nation.
According to USNH statistics, about 2,000 graduates of the system join the workforce each year
“Business is truly the engine of the state’s economic vitality,” said UNH President Dean. “The largest portion of the state budget comes from the business and profit tax, (which) drives all the programs that benefit the people of New Hampshire who desperately need talent to run and grow these businesses.” A lot of that talent comes from the educational institutions we have here.”