Many employers in diverse industries face a common challenge: closing the knowledge and skills gap that makes it hard to find qualified employees.

Whether brought about by holes in school curricula or lack of funds for on-the-job training, this challenge is causing employers to seek innovative solutions to workforce preparedness.

Capella University’s focus on competency-based education is meant to address this gap by providing students with the real-world, hands-on training and education employers need. Partnerships between the university and employers are key to ensuring that students learn exactly the skills employers’ desire. One example is the nursing education partnership Capella has with University Health System of San Antonio, Texas.


Increasing Demand for Highly-Educated Nurses

University Health System is a public hospital that is facing a daunting recommendation from the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine): to raise the percent of working nurses with bachelor’s degrees from 50% to 80%, and double the number of nurses with doctoral degrees by 2020.

The recommendation is supported by strong evidence. For example, a recent University of Michigan study found that increasing the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees by 10% was associated by an almost 11% decrease in patient mortality, and that patients who received 80% or more of their care from those nurses had shorter hospital stays and lower rates of readmission.

Increasing education levels for nurses leads to better care and better health outcomes. The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) encourages nurses to achieve advanced degrees through an education system that promotes seamless academic progression.


Partnering with Capella

The hospital’s tight budget means that it needs an educational partner to meet the NAM’s recommendation. Capella’s competency-based approach aligned well with the hospital’s needs. University Health System defined the education and competencies it sought across several nursing academic programs, and Capella’s curriculum met their needs. Examples are: evidence-based practice, health care IT, and emphasis on health policy, patient safety, care quality, and emerging priorities.

Besides having the educational components, Capella also appealed to University Health System because of its online format. The hospital’s employees had flexibility in starting programs and working at their own speed. It’s also a highly affordable option for students and removes the financial responsibility of training from the hospital.


Positive Results

The partnership has resulted in the hospital seeing a 10% increase in the number of nurses with BSN degrees since 2011, putting University Health System on track for meeting the NAM’s recommendation. They are also on course to improve care and outcomes for patients by bridging the existing knowledge and skills gap, and increasing the number of nurses with advanced degrees beyond the BSN.


Capella partners with employers to deliver competency-based education in several fields, including business management, information technology, human capital management, healthcare administration, public health, behavioral health, public safety, K-12 education, and higher education.


Learn more about Capella’s strategic partnerships with employers.

Learn more about Capella’s flexible online nursing programs.


This post is excerpted from ATD’s whitepaper, Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development is Everyone’s Business.


See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at Capella Results.