Employers Want Workplace-Ready Grads, But Can Higher Ed Deliver? | From the Bell Tower

By on March 19, 2014 1 Comment

steven bell newswire Employers Want Workplace Ready Grads, But Can Higher Ed Deliver? | From the Bell TowerA new survey reveals a wide gap between provosts and business leaders when it comes to judging college students’ readiness for the workplace. What can academic librarians take away from the controversy?

As the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed in the past decade, students and parents expectations for a graduate’s state of career readiness have grown. And as the job market continues to offer limited opportunity for college graduates, students look to build any and every personal advantage. These factors find their way into the curriculum in many ways, from writing intensive courses that address business correspondence to the development of specialized certificates that students can tack on to their diplomas to show they have workplace skills. While there is pressure on colleges and universities to do a better job of readying students for the workplace and job placement, there is a fine line between a college education and vocational preparation. If the results of a new survey of business leaders is an indicator, then higher education if failing quite spectacularly at preparing students for the workplace. Read more…

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Essential Soft Skills | Office Hours

Are we preparing graduates for the information workplace? That’s a question I recently considered while reading Paul Fain’s article “Grading Personal Responsibility” in Inside Higher Ed (12/13/12). He describes a new initiative at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, NC, emphasizing as part of the curriculum “soft skills,” including personal responsibility, interdependence, and emotional intelligence.

These are important concepts to consider, and I wonder just how much emphasis is placed on these types of skills as students move through our programs. Are LIS grads as work-ready as they could be? Are there some soft skills particularly necessary in information ­professions?

Consider the following soft skills essential for our libraries and information centers.

Communication

A given, right? It should be a tremendous concern if a student is graduating without experience communicating via the written word, as a participant in a conversation or group meeting, as a presenter in front of groups, and online within various interactive channels. Clear, concise writing no matter what the format—memo, proposal, brief, email, blog post, Facebook posting, Tweet—is paramount. A focus on literacy, in every sense of the word, should be crucial as students move toward their degree.

Initiative

I would also stress the willingness to speak up and be heard. New librarians are often too silent. Of course, they shouldn’t be annoying or act as know-it-alls—those traits are career killers—but they should be willing to submit ideas up the chain, talk to higher-level administrators when they can, and use their communication skills to make themselves heard, recognized, and appreciated. They should join teams, even during probationary periods, and submit ideas for efficiencies and improvements. With money tight and staff limited, any good administrator is going to welcome this type of new librarian.

We don’t have the luxury to have new hires wait for detailed step-by-step assignments or direction. Librarians should take their projects and run with them and have the support of their administration to do so. Is the student who asks multiple questions about every detail of an assignment destined to be the hesitant micromanager hooked on having meetings with little tangible outcomes? Read more…

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