Should the college experience focus solely on academic subjects, teaching students about theories and perspectives, developing literacy and critical thinking? Or would today’s college students be better off honing career-specific skills to groom them for the workplace?
Why not both?
This is the conclusion reached during a roundtable discussion between a panel of experts and sponsored by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The subsequent report, Preparing Students for 21st Century Careers,* gave advice on how collaboration between academic institutions, employers, and civic organizations would best prepare new workers in the coming decades.
The report details the disconnect between skills students think they need to be employable and skills employers demand of new employees. Students want a major that will land them a job upon graduation—employers need workers who are “versatile and resilient” and who will be able to change careers many times over their work lives. However, the problem is that majoring in a career-specific discipline does not adequately prepare students for the demands of the future workplace.
The panel of experts believes colleges can help close this gap by integrating the educational experience with career development by doing the following:
- Investing in stronger career counseling programs
- Making career development mandatory
- Building career skills into coursework
- Providing faculty development to help instructors update their pedagogy
- Incorporating problem solving and group projects into course work in conjunction with local organizations or nonprofits.
However, the panel also emphasized the importance of faculty continuing to teach in their disciplines, but in ways that teach students howto learn. In the future, the panel noted, today’s students will likely have several careers, and unless they learn how to learn, they will be at a disadvantage. The panel also emphasized that all graduates, despite their major, need certain skills—project management, information literacy, and computational understanding. These skills should be developed not outsideof the college experience but as part ofit.
- Have you taken advantage of career counseling resources on your campus?
- Why do you think many employers want new hires who know how to learn rather than graduate with specific knowledge?
- Why do you think employers consistently rank communication skills at the top of their “wants” for new hires?
*Download the report using this link.