Building Miami’s future workforce: Barry University addresses workforce shortfalls through ‘learning by doing’ education

Opportunity Miami
Opportunity Miami
Published in
5 min readJan 13, 2023


By Barry University President Mike Allen

As our region’s colleges and universities strive forward, the focus on preparing today’s students for Miami’s future workforce is more critical than ever. Yet there’s a gap between what CEOs look for and how universities prepare students for the workforce. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 11% of business leaders strongly agree that today’s undergraduates are leaving college with the right skills and competencies to be successful in the workplace.

As South Florida’s largest private Catholic institution of higher learning and as one of the leading universities in the nation for promoting social mobility, Barry University is preparing our students for the future workforce by offering them more than 100 degree programs in a variety of disciplines, including those in professions with unprecedented demand such as nursing, teaching, technology, entrepreneurship and podiatry. Our programs emphasize hands-on learning, responding to market conditions and addressing critical societal needs.

Barry welcomes a diverse student body from 49 states and 94 countries and provides a personalized, values-based education centered on experiential and service learning. We pride ourselves in giving our students the tools and real-world experience that transform concepts into impact and produce graduates who are leaders in solving society’s most pressing challenges. Academically and experientially rich, this practice adds lasting value and leads students to become active partners in their education as they gain practical knowledge in many fields.

Healthcare and Education
Beyond being the focal point of the pandemic, the healthcare industry has grown and transformed exponentially in the last few years. From critical shortages to an abundance of new types of jobs, healthcare practitioners now have myriads of new challenges, as well as new opportunities. In health tech, wearable devices mean that we can all take our blood pressure, monitor heart rates and blood sugar, and alert emergency services in case of trouble. Apps can analyze other ailments, including mental health. And artificial intelligence promises to tell us about upcoming health conditions years in advance.

The question becomes, how do you prepare students to successfully learn the essentials while also embracing the flexibility of preparing for accelerated industry evolution?

Barry’s evolving curriculums and approach to experiential learning strategically address this challenge. Our nursing students are getting practical training to fill a critical shortage of nurses in the state and prepare for the future of healthcare. The newly formed School of Nursing at Barry, combined with local-area hospital partnerships and programs such as the Baptist BOND Scholars Program, provide nursing students with real-world learning experiences on-site and with real patients. Beyond high-touch essentials such as how to suture, take a pulse, find an airway, or manage bodily fluids, our programs also focus on compassion, empathy, cultural sensitivities, and other key skills that often cannot be easily absorbed online or in a traditional classroom.

Our College of Health and Wellness, which was recently formed to amplify interprofessional collaboration, now includes our School of Social Work, which allows students to comprehensively approach healthcare from a broader, more holistic perspective that includes mental health, community health and social justice.

This comprehensive approach prompts students to function effectively as members of cross-functional teams with physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, social workers, administrators and public health officials.

Our distinguished School of Podiatric Medicine, one of only 10 accredited schools in the country, prides itself on always going beyond the core essentials of patient care. From traveling to Mexico to perform surgery on disadvantaged children as part of The Dr. Charles C. Southerland Jr. Yucatan Children’s Project, to real-time telehealth experience, our podiatric medicine students are leading the charge in their field and positively impacting others. Case in point, through our three South Florida clinics and in partnership with Arche Healthcare, our podiatric faculty and students identify diabetes indicators in patients’ feet while working to prevent foot ulcerations and amputations using innovative tools and resources.

At Barry’s Adrian Dominican School of Education, Leadership, and Human Development, we are addressing other critical shortages in Florida: teachers, counselors and human resources professionals. Our CARE Center (Counseling, Assessment, Research and Education) offers students who work under the supervision of licensed professionals opportunities to provide mental health support services that address a diverse spectrum of individual needs. Barry graduates are truly shaping the landscape of education in our community, and we proudly celebrate the current and prior superintendents of Miami-Dade County Public Schools as our alums.

Business and Entrepreneurship
Learning by doing, experiencing the thrill of real-world decision-making, and managing existing financial accounts, are all part of how we ask our students to “do” business, not just learn it. Students from Barry’s D. Inez Andreas School of Business and Public Administration are preparing themselves for careers with a hands-on approach. From interning at the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat, or the Miami Marlins, to trading stocks or working at one of Miami’s new tech firms, our Business and Public Administration students are engaged and visible in South Florida’s international business world.

Our Student Managed Investment Fund manages more than $1 million of Barry’s investments and outperforms market expectations on a regular basis. Students are also getting practical opportunities through the Barry Entrepreneurship Lab, where they learn to develop business plans, set up legal structures for their organizations, build strategies for raising capital, and interface with potential investors. The Barry Management Consulting team provides opportunities for students to work with industry leaders, nonprofits and government sectors in the areas of strategic planning, marketing, leadership development and process design.

Critical thinking and practical experience are also required for successful STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career paths. Our College of Arts and Sciences is addressing the need for representation in these fields by preparing our diverse student body for STEM professions. Our Engaged STEM Scholars Grant from the National Science Foundation is building a pipeline of promising high school students from underserved communities to enter Barry and receive practical learning experiences in math, computer science, biology, chemistry and physics.

The landscape of higher education is shifting rapidly, arguably to a degree unparalleled in our history. As teaching delivery methods evolve to include more opportunities for virtual learning and growing opportunities for shorter-term credentialing emerge, so must our commitment to aligning with the greatest needs of our local industries and our intentionality to prepare our students through ‘learning by doing.’

At Barry University, it’s about exchanging ideas, exploring purpose, getting the adrenaline rush of accomplishment, and being active participants in moving our communities forward. Our students and alumni tell the story of what we are achieving: we’re creating opportunities, we’re producing breakthroughs, and we are building the next generation of diverse, socially conscious individuals to lead the industries of today and tomorrow.

This is the fourth essay in an ongoing series with Opportunity Miami’s Academic Leaders Council, which includes the presidents of the University of Miami, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, St. Thomas University, and Barry University, along with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The essay series, called “The Class of 2040: Essays on the next-generation workforce,” explores how we will meet the talent development needs of the future. Opportunity Miami is powered by Miami-Dade Beacon Council.