Hart Research Associates Find Employers Value Liberal Arts

Based on a survey of major employers, Hart Research Associates find that a combination of technical and liberal arts training is highly valued. According to the study, “The majority of employers agree that having
both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and
knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve
long-term career success. Few think that having field-specific knowledge
and skills alone is what is most needed for individuals’ career
success.”

Read study here: http://www.aacu.org/leap/documents/2013_EmployerSurvey.pdf

Colleges Providing More and More Career Prep

This article repeats some of the misinformation about the humanities in decline, but it does get this right: employers currently expect college grads to be prepared for the workplace right out of college. The old idea of on-the-job training is now called an internship, and students need to gain this experience while in college in order to have a shot a job after.

See here: http://www.boston.com/news/education/2013/07/10/many-colleges-offering-more-help-with-career-prep/oZsXDGKX3k7hHYwYjCd6DM/story.html

A Summer of Reports and Articles on the State of the Humanities

There has been a burst of commentary this summer on the humanities crisis (or non-crisis), largely in response to two reports. One was conducted by Harvard University (found here) and the other by a national commission sponsored by the AAAS, titled The Heart of the Matter. Both reports sound alarm bells about the decline of the humanities, pointing to lower undergraduate enrollments as the most visible sign. Many, including Michael Bérubé, Anthony Grafton and quant wizard, Nate Silver, have poked serious holes in the crisis/decline narratives. So have we in a Chronicle piece found here.

The story is much more complex than the “decline” narratives report. Whether or not there is a “crisis” depends largely on what dimension of the humanities critics focus on (graduate study and the academic job market, for example, are clear cases of a crisis) and how the data is contextualized historically. In most cases, pessimists have a decline narrative already in place and then proceed to cherry-pick data confirming that bias. This then becomes a pretext for complaining about “wrong turns” the Humanities have taken in the past and how to remedy them for the future.

Just as I was getting ready to provide a roundup of the recent articles, The Chronicle of Higher Ed beat me to the punch. Have a look here: http://chronicle.com/article/A-Collection-of-Articles-and/140205/

Who is Getting Hired in Today’s Labor Market?

Tom Friedman writes today in the NYT about a
new kind of HR/job training company – a start-up focused on bridging the gap between
job-seekers and job-creators in the so-called “new” economy. Citing the CEO, Eleonora Sharef: “The market is broken on
both sides… Many applicants
don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to
get them. But employers also … have unrealistic expectations.” “In
the new
economy, you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates
to do that.”

The good news is that job recruiters in many companies are not fixated on specific majors; any degree is in play, including humanities and liberal arts degrees. This news corresponds to current labor research and to what I’m regularly told by recruiters. What today’s labor
market values is effective communication, people skills, creativity and problem-solving capacities, no matter how or
where these capacities are acquired.

These, of course, are precisely the skills that humanities and liberal arts students learn to cultivate. Their problem is different: they lack the immediately marketable technical skills to land the first job. According to Sharef, “A degree document is no longer a proxy for
the competency employers need.” 

This gap between market requirements and educational deficits is structural and likely to remain in place since most university curricula are not designed with this hybridity in mind. In the meantime, new companies like the one Friedman writes about are likely to flourish… unless university leaders and the advising/career services community respond with creative solutions of their own.

read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/opinion/friedman-how-to-get-a-job.html?hp&_r=0