Is a College Degree Enough? | Edcor

Is a College Degree Enough?


Who is Responsible for Teaching Students to Think?

Critical Thinking, Complex Problem Solving, Judgment and Decision Making, Active Listening – these are the skills that are most critical to employers according to many Fortune 500 Companies – including our clients. Next up come the Technical skills, Analysis skills, and then the Sales skills – because everyone should be selling. If not the product or brand, then our own personal brand. Unfortunately employers are having a hard time finding new graduates that possess not only a degree, but also these important skills as well.

Employers are becoming more and more frustrated with the level of preparedness that graduates are arriving to the workplace with. Their expectations are not being met – not by a long shot. But who is responsible? The Employer? The University? Should they collaborate? According to Richard Cavanagh, President and CEO of the Conference Board, “greater communication and collaboration between the business sector and educators is critical to ensure that young people are prepared to enter the workplace of the 21st century. “Less than intense preparation in critical skills can lead to unsuccessful futures for America’s youth, as well as a less competitive U.S. workforce. This ultimately makes the U.S. economy more vulnerable in the global marketplace.”

Business success depends upon the ability to be innovative in solving problems and formulating a profitable strategy, and a shortage of those skills can be disastrous for a particular company and overall for our future economy. Employers value a Bachelor’s Degree, yet it does not seem to be meeting expectations in many cases.

All of this leads us back to the questions of who is responsible? How as a society do we fix what is wrong to ensure that students learn not only the mechanics needed to graduate, but the soft skills that will transfer with them to any job they have throughout their lives. Again, should corporations wait and train graduates with formal training and on-the-job training? Or, should the Universities be preparing graduates so they can hit the ground running?

In reality, it’s probably both. Corporations and Universities need to work together to develop goals and curriculum that benefit all stakeholders. There are companies that already do this to some degree; however it’s done at a small and localized level. Essentially this type of collaboration is focused on a specific company- not on the corporate environment as a whole. Corporations need to take a more active role in the education being provided by forming partnerships with higher education institutions to help create objectives, have discussions and dialogue with higher education with the goal of facilitating changes to the preparation of graduates for the real world.

Not everything at the University has to change as students still need to learn the basics, but maybe there are other ways to teach those skills that will help students further develop their soft skills. Universities need to continue to focus on educating the student for the workforce, but again not in not such generalized ways. Teaching soft skills means to engage the entire person in the learning process, and for success in their future careers. This is not always the perceived right path in the academic environment, but perhaps it should be.

To illustrate further some of these concepts, a link to the summary results from a very interesting survey completed recently by The Chronicle for Higher Education and the American Public Media’s Marketplace is below. Overall, the survey results show that colleges and degrees are ok, but there is room for improvement.