Thursday, February 12, 2015

College Jocks No Solution to a US Skills Crisis

The answer to "Why are so many college students failing to gain job skills before graduation?" (Jeffrey J. Selingo, Washington Post, January 26) seems obvious: US college programs are not designed to teach, or test, job skills. If you want someone trained to work, then hire an Australian. ;-)

As Selingo says, college athletes learn to work on teams, which is a skill valued by employers. But you don't have to become a college jock to learn teamwork, you can enroll in a vocational program which teaches such skills.

It is no surprise that students who study science, where teamwork is required, learn to work in teams. If graduates of social work and business don't have these skills, then this is easily remedied, by including it in the curriculum.

As Selingo says, the best preparation for employment is a mix of classroom learning and practical experience. This what the best vocationally oriented higher education programs provide: they incorporate the real world experience into the courses.

I don't agree with Selingo that too much emphasis is placed on the student picking a practical field of study. The problem is that the supposedly practical majors, such as business, do not provide the skills required in the workplace.

Selingo's suggestion that Google is increasingly hiring people without degrees is nonsense. You are not going to get a job programming Google's computer systems without very advanced qualifications as well as being able to demonstrate the required skills.

The solution is not to take up football at college and hope that somehow some of those skills are recognized by an employer. Students need to select programs which combine academic excellence, vocational skills and practice. Such programs are offered by Australian Higher Educational institutions in both the vocational and university sectors. Last night I was discussing at the ACS e-Learning Special Interest Group how to further this with skills in innovation.

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