Phi Beta Cons

Competition Is Driving Colleges to Boost Graduates’ Employability

Employers have long complained about college graduates’ lack of workforce preparedness. Meanwhile, many of those college graduates have complained about the dearth of well-paying entry level jobs. George Leef, in today’s Pope Center feature, explains how new developments in and out of traditional higher education could help to address both complaints.

Leef reviews Peter Stokes’s Higher Education and Employability, a book that details how “non-college ventures” are “improving the link between education and employment.” Partly as a result of these ventures (such as coding academies), traditional colleges and universities have faced market pressure to better connect their students with job opportunities. And many of them are doing just that. 

The University of Maryland, Georgia Tech, and New York University are just a few of the schools attempting to improve students’ employability. Whether by partnering with businesses or tailoring curricula to tech industry jobs, higher education leaders are working to increase the financial value of their students’ degrees. So far, the results of these initiatives appear positive.

In my view, the best way for colleges to increase the long-term value of degrees is to raise academic standards and impart the “soft skills” that many employers say students are lacking. Those skills are honed by the liberal arts and by rigorous general education coursework.

Fortunately, as Leef writes, “[Schools] can collaborate with the business sector and still offer a good liberal arts education. Part of the discovery process colleges will go through consists of figuring out the best educational blends; there won’t be a single right one.”

Jesse SaffronJesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...

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