My colleague, Diane Crosley, an instructor in Natural Sciences at Spring Arbor University, and I gave a presentation at the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching and Learning in Traverse City, MI last October (2015) entitled, "Bridging the skills gap: Preparing Higher Education students for the 21st century workplace."
It has been a while since our presentation, and I am currently working on a follow up presentation for the International Lilly Conference in June (Helping student to create knowledge networks for current and future success). My presentation in June is the outcome of discussions we had in our October session. So I thought it might be the right time to share what some of the highlights/discussion questions were for our October presentation.
This presentation came out of the discussion Diane and I had about teaching, the needs of our students, and conversations we had with our colleagues on how to teach these skills. We both come from different disciplines (she was a high school science teacher and currently teaches at the college level most natural sciences including biology, environmental science, geology, and botany; I did training in the workplace before teaching business, communication, global studies, foreign language, and education at the college level). However, we discovered the same gap between high school students and employer expectations. The planning framework came out of the universals we identified in giving students the skills expected from employers, students, policy makers, educators, and society in general.
Abstract: Many experts the workplace have identified a lack of skills by new college graduates needed for the 21st century workplace. These skills include self-regulated learning, communication, networking, critical thinking, analysis (data, numeric, and content) and problem solving. This presentation will present a framework that can be used to create and analyze activities that will develop these soft skills. The framework, based on a variety of learning theories and subjects (Social Sciences, Humanities, Business, and STEM), includes identifying student soft skills, identifying the instructor’s role (and changes needed by the instructor), and situational learning strategies to meet the student/workplace gap.
Many experts in industry and the workplace have identified a lack of skills by new college graduates needed for the 21st century workplace. These skills include written and oral communication (Bersin, Agarwal, Pelster, and Schwartz, 2015; Chronicle of Higher Education, 2015; Hart Research Associates, 2015; Weiner, 2014); lifelong learning skills (Bersin et al, Chronicle of Higher Education 2015); creating knowledge networks (Hart Research Associates; Weiner), problem solving and analytical skills (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2012; Hart Research Associations, Hilborn and Friedlander, 2013); Rhetorical reasoning and critical reading (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2015); applying theory to practice (Hart Research Associates; Hilborn and Friedlander; Weiner); community building and engagement (Bersin et al.); and mathematical reasoning (Hilborn and Friedlander).
These skills can be further broken down into the following skill sets: self-regulated learning, communication, networking, critical thinking, analysis (data, numeric, and content) and problem solving. While the common core curriculum was designed to address this gap between the academic and workplace skill development, the implementation of K-12 curriculum has focused on assessment and standardized teaching rather than development of the of workplace “soft-skills”. This presentation will present a framework that can be used to create and analyze activities that will develop these soft skills. The framework, based on analysis of activities using a variety of learning theories and subjects (Social Sciences, Humanities, Business, and STEM), includes identifying student soft skills, identifying the instructor’s role (and changes needed by the instructor), and situational learning strategies to meet the student/workplace gap.
Bersin, J., Agarwal, D., Pelster, B., Schwartz, J. (2015). Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the new world of work. Deloitte University Press: DUPress.com
Chronicle of Higher Education (2015). Special Report: The Employment Mismatch. Chronicle.com, May 22.
Chronicle of Higher Education (2012). The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions. Retrieved May, 2015 from https://chronicle.com/items/biz/pdf/Employers%20Survey.pdf
Hart Research Associates (2015). Optimistic About the Future, But How Well Prepared? College Students’ Views on College Learning and Career Success. Prepared for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, April 29, 2015. Retrieved May 22, 2015 from http://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/2015StudentSurveyReport.pdf
Hilborn, R. & Friedlander, M. (2013) Biology and Physics Competencies for Pre-Health and Other Life Sciences Students. CBE Life Science Education, 12 (2), 170-174.
Weiner, J. (2014) The STEM paradoxes: Graduates’ lack of non-technical skills, and not enough women. Washington Post (online edition), September 26.
The presentation format was as followed:
1) Introduction to topic
2) What is the perceived lack of necessary skills coming into college? Participants will Brainstorm by content areas (e.g. STEM, humanities, social sciences, business, professional)
3) What does the research say is lacking with regards to skills coming into college?
· Basic math usage issues,
· communication issues,
· group dynamic issues,
· ability to problem solve in new situations (critical thinking)
· adaptability and teachability
4) What are the perceived deficits of college graduates entering the workforce from the perspective of business and industry?
5) A discussion of the disconnect between educational expectations (K-12 to college) and workplace skill set needs (college to the workplace expectations): the workplace/education skill gap (i.e. self-regulated learning, communication, networking, critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving.)
A. How do we change our classrooms to help facilitate student learning? What is the role of the professor? How does that role need to change? Research says that the role of the instructor needs to change to one of mentoring student learning rather than presenting content to the student. How many instructors feel uncomfortable with this idea of a changing role? Why?
B. Strategies instructors can use in their content area to help build these missing skills (a demonstration of two different activities used in two different contexts that build “soft skills”). Both activities will model the need for students to be faced with real world open ended problem solving. However, both activities will be grounded in two different educational theories (experiential learning and project based learning).
C. Interdisciplinary group activity in which participants brainstorm existing teaching strategies and how to adapt them to maximize practice of the missing skill sets.
D. Framework to create activities that will develop the skills university students need in the workplace. The frame work consists of planning, execution, and feedback phases (Appendix A).
Summary: This presentation presented a framework that can be used to develop student skill sets, identify activities that will will develop those skill sets, and a record for instructors to document their teaching and its impact on student employability and community engagement.