Businesses invest in talent

Businesses are desperate for workers. The September Jobs Report issued by the National Federation of Independent Business, which surveys 10,000 small business owners and members, shows a record-high 51% of small business owners have job openings they could not fill. With the national quit rate hitting an all-time high of 2.8% in April and now hovering at 2.7%, more than ever, businesses are focused on retention and professional development. And that represents a huge opportunity for colleges and universities.

New Hampshire’s higher education institutions are increasing their professional development offerings and tailoring them to fill the growing skills gap. Many offer targeted, shorter-duration courses so students and workers can quickly step into new or higher positions.

Some schools are providing microcredentials, microcertifications or professional badges to get learners on the job faster. Others are partnering with local businesses to offer customized coursework or on-the-job training through apprenticeships.

Many companies are picking up the tab for these trainings.

“I think there’s a real interest these days in working with employers directly,” says Travis Willard, chief production officer at Southern NH University in Manchester.

The pandemic exacerbated existing health care worker shortage in the state, and many institutions of higher learning report high demand for licensed nursing assistants, medical assistants and other health-related programs.

Lynn Szymanski, director of workforce development at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, says her school offers a 12-week program in medical assisting — eight weeks in the classroom and four weeks of externship in a medical office — four times a year, with classes filled.

Alison Chisolm, director of workforce development, entrepreneurship programs and community partnerships at River Valley Community College in Claremont, Lebanon and Keene, says they offer allied health programs “as fast as we can, with as many as we can and we’re barely keeping pace.” An accelerated nursing program at Franklin Pierce University’s Manchester campus allows those with a bachelor’s degree to earn a nursing degree in as little…