Employer Perspectives on Competency-Based Education

A recent report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) researched employer perspectives on competency-based education (CBE) using a survey of hiring managers across the country. The survey identified several obstacles to the expansion and acceptance of broader CBE efforts across the labor market. Given the lack of awareness of CBE in the field, an opportunity exists to engage employers proactively as partners in the further development of CBE programs.

Among the report’s findings:

  • In general, employer awareness of CBE is low (only 9% of employers reported a “strong understanding”).
    • Those who were aware of CBE had a favorable view of model and its graduates.
  • Lack of awareness seemed to be correlated with a lack of understanding of the potential benefits to employers of hiring students educated through CBE programs.
    • After receiving a description of CBE, 60% of respondents expressed interest in hiring CBE graduates.
  • Nearly 2/3rds of employers believe they could do a better job of identifying potential employees with the required skill sets and thought CBE might help them do this.
    • For instance, the most common challenge cited by hiring managers is “finding enough qualified applicants.” The second most common is “properly judging candidates’ qualifications.”
    • Both of these challenges could be addressed by CBE’s focus on demonstrated mastery of skills.
  • Hiring managers also reported placing tremendous emphasis on the prior experience of potential employees in recruitment and selection. This indicates that if known to recruiters, CBE graduates would be in demand in many labor markets.
  • Still, there seems to be a preference for traditional degree- based credentials, particularly as recruiters fill senior positions.
    • Roughly half of survey respondents would be very likely to hire a temporary worker, administrative assistant or entry level worker on the basis of demonstrated competencies. Less than 25% said the same about senior management positions.