Columbia business leaders, students discuss grads' skill gaps

Student-body leaders from universities and colleges across the Midlands met with local business leaders last week for a discussion at the Columbia Chamber to identify solutions for bridging the skills gaps of recent graduates entering the work force.

The economy needs more college graduates nationwide, but attaining a college degree has never been so financially challenging. Recent data show that 96 percent of chief academic officers believe that their graduates are ready for success in the work force, but only 11 percent of business leaders believe they're ready.

The roundtable explored how college-degree issues affect the Midlands economy and how students and business leaders can work together to overcome these challenges.

The roundtable discussion is part of a larger series called the Students Speak Series, hosted by the National Campus Leadership Council. The NCLC plans similar roundtable discussions in 14 other cities, including Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Detroit and Los Angeles.

The Columbia Chamber and Columbia Opportunity Resource, a charitable organization and a strategic partner with the Columbia Chamber and the City of Columbia, were local partners in the initiative.

Business leaders and students who participated in the discussion included Quisha Benjamin, Justin Thompson and Nikki Brown from Columbia College; Jimmy Griffin and Sheila Johnson from Central Carolina Technical College; Lorre Norton and Penny Rehme from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina; Kaye Shaw from the Midlands Education and Business Alliance; and Lawrence Pralour from Allen University.

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