A couple days back, we posted a piece hear that will looked at the value of a college training from an economic standpoint and examined whether or not a degree is actually “ worth” the time and money it takes in order to earn. This question along with concern of greater accessibility encapsulates that will great, polarizing debate that seems to be swallowing much of the dialogue regarding higher ed. From the perspective on most of the policymakers involved in the discussion, higher education fails in its mission if it teaches graduates only for their first postcollege job.
But what if there’ s more to a university education than landing that initial job that doesn’ t include standing behind a counter? Higher education, at its best, trains graduates for their future as mature plus reasoning citizens, able to understand their own lives, work, and interests, as well as the needs of their communities, their country, and the larger world.
As a piece in the Chronicle better Education points out, the element is usually missing in the recent study by Lumina Foundation and the Gallup firm, “ What America Needs to Know About Higher Education Redesign. ” The study attempts to discover what the broader U. S i9000. public and business leaders consider the interface between higher education and company. In interpreting their polling information, the authors paint a hopeless picture of the state of higher training, hence the redesign suggestion. But a closer look at their information yields different conclusions.
Substantial percentages of the general public recognized postsecondary education as readily available (if unaffordable for many), important, plus likely to grow more critical later on. Yet more than 70 percent associated with business leaders polled said they might consider hiring someone without a higher-education degree or credential, all things becoming equal. More than 50 percent of them said that at least half of the jobs with their companies do not require postsecondary education, and 43 percent expected that even 10 years from now less than 50 percent of those jobs would certainly require higher education.
The Lumina/Gallup results are in line with other research in underscoring the importance the public areas on a college’s ability to produce graduates able to get good jobs. But significantly, the public ranks faculty qualifications plus degree-program quality even higher.
More is revealed if we drill down into the study. Broad polling on the link between education plus employment often stresses the importance of postsecondary education in preparing graduates for any “ good” job, which Lumina and Gallup do in their study. While it is hard to define the “ good” job, if the objective of higher education were solely to prepare graduates for their first job, we might be failing our students, if only because in our fluid work force it is estimated that individuals hold an average of 11 work between ages 18 and 46.
But can we deduce what kinds of jobs were central to the Lumina/Gallup study? Nearly seventy percent of the business leaders surveyed said that it was “ somewhat” in order to “ very likely” that workers who earned a postsecondary education while in their employ would depart for other jobs. In other words, the research is largely about entry-level jobs.
At the very least, noted the Explain piece, the data disclose a number of contradictions. According to polling figures, business market leaders argue that colleges are doing a poor job of preparing graduates with the skills and competencies needed for their businesses, but also believe that employees who manage to earn a college degree while on the job will very likely leave for much better jobs based, one assumes, in the skills and competencies they received in colleges and universities.
What exactly are the skills and competencies most highly regarded by employers? Recent studies by Northeastern University and the American Organization of Colleges and Universities found that a huge majority of employers are looking for college graduates with broadly applicable skills such as oral and written communications, the capacity to think critically, solve complex problems, take responsibility, and innovate, as well as people who demonstrate ethical view and integrity. Specific industry encounter ranks much lower.
Lumina’s open-ended question yielded a more fragmented picture, but similar skills surfaced as important: communication, writing, problem-solving and people skills, and critical thinking. Yet when asked to price the factors managers consider in hiring decisions, 79 percent found the candidate’s applied skills in the field “ very important, ” as did 84 percent in terms of the candidate’s knowledge in the field. Again, employers seem to be associated with two minds.
It is possible that the polling reveals a split between hiring managers who employ for a specific job while business chief executives express a greater curiosity about a package of broad competencies plus specific skills for the long term. Certainly, the fact that most leaders polled say that their own employees will move on once they obtain a college degree suggests this divide.
Where, then, does the particular Lumina/Gallup poll leave those of us in higher education? In the first place, we would agree with the particular 88 percent of those polled who all favor an increased level of collaboration between higher education and businesses. We hope that this conversation will lead to more to truly and other experiences that can provide the students with meaningful opportunities to discover career paths.
Second, a deep reading of the Lumina/Gallup data doesn’t support those organizations’ reported conclusions that employers will be looking increasingly for workers with a targeted skill set and that a degree in and of itself will not be important. Our reading is that employers continue to be looking for those characteristics that have long been central to a liberal-arts education: skills of communication and critical thinking, innovation and collaboration, integrity plus responsibility.
These qualities come not just from a single course but from a thoughtful and purposeful education. To the extent that these skills can be paired with experiential understanding and creative problem-solving pedagogies, we are preparing our graduates not just for first jobs but for their future lives, which will very likely involve multiple jobs and career changes.
According to the historian William Cronon, education should “ aspire to nurture the growth of human talent in the service of human independence. ” This is what insitutions of higher training should aspire to. This mission acts not only our students, but employers, communities, and nation.