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.
Communication skills have always been desired qualities in new-hires, but recently, speaking skills in particular have shot to the number one spot of what employers want. Such skills, however, are also difficult to find, according to research conducted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities.
Good speaking skills include the ability to converse and express thoughts clearly and concisely and are just as important if addressing an audience of one or one thousand. It is little wonder that employers seek this skill. The ability to express oneself is important to nearly every aspect of work: landing an interview, securing the position, and doing a good job once hired. Businesses exist because their employees can discuss problems and request information, give instructions, and collaborate.
Speaking well requires several other abilities, all of which can be honed. Active listening during a conversation promotes understanding others’ messages, the first step to a meaningful response. Body language such as looking someone in the eye shows that the listener is concentrating on what is being said. Fast thinking and organizing thoughts aid responding well during a conversation. Of course, having the vocabulary to give voice to ideas helps a speaker communicate with precision and without frustration.
Whether speaking in person, on the phone, in a group, or to an audience, communication skills are key to a successful career. Just ask any hirer.
- Why do you think employers are finding it so difficult to hire employees who speak well?
- What types of jobs require speaking skills?
- What can you do to improve your speaking skills?
We keep hearing that privacy doesn’t exist anymore, and that we should no longer even expect it. But while most of can understand the need for monitoring the public in some situations, do any of us really want retailers following our movements when we’re in their stores?
It’s already happening. The cosmetic chain Sephora uses Bluetooth to connect to customers’ smartphones and track what they look at. Once that data is gathered, promotions geared to the shoppers’ preferences are sent to their smartphones. Other technology tracks shoppers if they use in-store Wi-Fi, which enables the business to capture shoppers’ data and private information. While Target, Walmart, and Lowe’s have not yet adopted facial-recognition systems that can, among other functions, identify former shoplifters in its stores, these retailers are considering such Big Brother intrusions.
Stores claim technologies that track shopping behaviors help them stay competitive with online retailers. They argue such tracking is being explored to enhance shoppers’ experience. However, privacy advocates claim the risks of abuse from tracking customers physically are too dangerous, and that if allowed to continue, could result in massive data collection that inevitably would be stored and shared. This sharing could theoretically lead to unknowing shoppers being blacklisted, misidentified, or otherwise labeled. If you were purchasing a lot of liquor for a large party, for example, that information could be stored and retrieved by a potential employer who may consider that purchase in a negative light.
Congress is currently considering legislation to protect privacy online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Should lawmakers stop businesses from using our faces and track our every step without permission?
- If retailers use facial recognition tracking in stores, should customers be informed or allowed to opt out?
- Should stores be allowed to use facial recognition technology to monitor employees as a way to cut down on theft or other issues?
- How would you feel about a store that used sensors in shopping carts that could track your eye movements?