Overconfident Students, Dubious Employers
According to results from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Class of 2018 Job Outlook Survey, college students believe they’re ready for a job, but employers disagree. For the most part, a high percentage of students indicated in most of the eight career readiness competencies that they were proficient. The largest discrepancy was in the professionalism/work ethic competency. These findings were supported by similar research conducted in 2015 by The Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup’s higher education division adds that research definitions can vary among employers and academia. For instance, Gallup has found that generally, an employer believes “critical thinking” is coming up with new, original thought. But in an academic sense, it can mean picking apart ideas in depth. Another varied definition relates to written communication. Some students might excel at writing technical reports or papers with citations, but this type of writing is far different than writing for marketing.
By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. The United States is more educated than ever: In 1973, workers with postsecondary education held only 28 percent of jobs; by comparison, they held 59 percent of jobs in 2010 and will hold 65 percent of jobs in 2020. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce publication provides vital labor market information such as which fields are expected to create the most jobs, the education requirements required to gain employment in the U.S., and the skills most coveted by employers. Key findings include:
- STEM, Healthcare Professions, Healthcare Support, and Community Services will be the fastest growing occupations, but also will require high levels of post-secondary education.
- Employers will seek cognitive skills such as communication and analytics from job applicants rather than physical skills traditionally associated with manufacturing.
In an era marked by rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence, new research by McKinsey and Company, assesses the jobs lost and jobs gained under different scenarios through 2030. A key finding is that while there may be enough work to maintain full employment to 2030, under most scenarios, the transitions will be very challenging—matching or even exceeding the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing we have seen in the past.
For more information about job loss to machines, view the TED Talks video by Anthony Goldbloom titled The Jobs We’ll Lose to Machines and the Ones We Won’t (with transcript).
McKinsey Global Institute researchers claim 46 percent of all of the time for which people are now paid in the U.S. economy is spent in activities that could be automated based on currently available technology. But the rise in automation doesn’t necessarily mean that postsecondary institutions are losing their value; rather, it means that colleges and universities are going to have to shift their focus and start focusing in on the humanities — developing soft skills needed for jobs of the future. Filling gaps in the workforce and being the institution that can provide those graduates for jobs that don’t exist yet — requires a collective look into the education to career pipeline.
Employability Skills, part of the STEM 2.0 framework, are an essential skill set for 21st century employees. Additionally, employers believe a gap exists between the required skill set and the skills that employees entering the work force possess. The STEM Innovation Task Force has taken a multi-phased approach to identify what skills lie in the gap, how those skills can be taught or imparted, and what actions employers, educators and policymakers can take to close the gap. The authors encourage educators and organizations that teach these skills to continue to prioritize employability skills and the use of career-focused experiential learning.
Most of the time as college instructors, we are concerned with ways of knowing. We want to teach students about our discipline, and train them to think like scholars in our field. But we should not neglect our duty to teach broader skills — ones that transcend the classroom and can be put into practice in the students’ lives beyond college. By trying to help our students develop habits of mind, we are guiding them in the future, whether they continue in our disciplines or not. The author of this article, David Gooblar writes a column on teaching for The Chronicle and runs Pedagogy Unbound, a website for college instructors who share teaching strategies.
When machines come for our jobs, we will need skills in communication, creativity, collaboration, and complex thinking to compete, says Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. It will take a completely different kind of education system he says — not the current one created at the height of the farm and factory economies. He believes you can study creativity and entrepreneurship, but practice is also needed to test yourself, see where you are good and where you are not, and to determine your passion. Additionally, practice facilitates an understanding of how to work with others and allows for practicing systems thinking.
Currently, higher education is producing I-shaped graduates who focus largely on their particular knowledge and skill-set, views the workplace as a competitive environment, and works within disciplinary silos. T-shaped professionals are characterized by their deep disciplinary knowledge in at least one area, an understanding of systems, and their ability to function as “adaptive innovators” and cross the boundaries between disciplines. Currently, many college and university graduates have been trained to be productive in one field, but employers are placing increasing importance on skills that reach beyond a single discipline or focus.
Additional information about T-Professionals can be found at the College Employment Research Institute (CERI).
In days gone by, it was common for just two age groups to be represented in the workplace. There were long-serving, “dyed-in-the-wool” old-timers and ambitious newcomers. Times have changed, and now you could find yourself working with as many as five generations. Broadly speaking, each one has its own set of preferences, styles, perspectives, and experiences. Generational diversity has great potential, however, the potential for conflict and misunderstanding is very real and intergenerational conflict within the workplace is a growing issue. Learn more about the six strategies for thriving within a multi-generational mix.
Characteristics of Different Age Groups in the Labor Force Today
There is an urgent need for young people to develop the practical skills employers are demanding. Employers globally declare that educational institutions are not adequately preparing young people with appropriate skills for the jobs they have available, and the deficit is greatest in the area of soft skills. Fortunately, there are shining examples of schools from which we can learn—schools that take responsibility for preparing all of their students to become changemaking leaders.
All economic indicators show a positive view of the U.S. economy in 2018, with the majority of occupations projected to grow. The fastest growth next year is in the healthcare, personal care, social assistance and construction sectors. Compare and contrast the previous years’ predictions (2013-2017) that are based on hundreds of conversations with executives and workers, a series of national and global online surveys and secondary research from more than 450 different research sources, including colleges, consulting firms, non-profits, the government and trade associations.
Keeping abreast of current and future workforce trends provide insight and ideas for new and enhanced skill development options when updating or creating new academic course content. According to Deloitte Insight’s, The Future of Work article and video, the paradigm-shifting forces such as cognitive technologies and the open talent economy are reshaping the future workforce, driving many organizations to reconsider how they design jobs, organize work, and plan for future growth. Review the figure below for a quick comparison of changing workforce rules that need to be adopted for leading, organizing, motivating, managing, and engaging the 21st-century workforce.