Employers Want Broadly Educated New Hires!

Dear Commons Community,

John Wallach, a colleague at Hunter College, sent along an article that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, reporting the results of a survey of corporate executives, identifying the skills they are looking for in college graduates. Conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U),  the study, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, concludes that employers’ support the idea that students should be broadly educated and should apply their learning to the real world during college. More than half of the employers indicated that recent college graduates should have “both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and knowledge.” (The report is based on an online survey of 318 employers conducted in January.)

The Chronicle article also commented on a compact, signed by 160 employers and 107 college presidents wherein they agreed to help the public understand the importance of a “21st-century liberal-arts education,” comprising broad and adaptive learning, personal and social responsibility, and intellectual skills.

“The signatories also pledged to promote students’ access to such an education, expand opportunities for hands-on learning, document progress in students’ ability to apply their learning, and advocate for college as a path to both career success and civic responsibility.

When college presidents tout the value of a liberal education, long championed by the AAC&U, the message doesn’t necessarily get traction. The public can be skeptical of higher education’s self-advocacy, said Ronald A. Crutcher, a signer of the compact who is president of Wheaton College in Massachusetts. “We need to have some of the employers speak on our behalf to make the case to the public,” he said.

Through the compact, executives will be able to communicate to hiring managers that broad learning matters, said Mr. Crutcher, who is also co-chair of the association’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise project.”



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