In 2010, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) commissioned a report concerning the expectations of employers regarding college graduates. The report’s findings, entitled “Raising the Bar: Employers’ Views On College Learning In The Wake Of The Economic Downturn,” have important ramifications for the future of American education, especially the liberal arts. At its core, the LEAP research revealed that today’s employers expect more from their employees: a broader skill set, increased teamwork capabilities, a global perspective and high-level problem solving abilities.
What stands out for advocates of the Humanities, however, is the kind of skills employers indicated they wanted colleges to further emphasize. The most desired quality, by 8% points, was effective communication skills, followed by critical thinking and the ability to apply knowledge to real world settings. Other highly valued learning outcomes included the ability to connect decision making to ethical dilemmas and to think creatively. This kind of expertise does not require a business degree or specialized training; rather, it is derived from a rigorous intellectual environment, one that compels students to confront big questions, challenges them to engage their community and asks them to take ownership of their own scholarly production.
Employers’ expectations have increased:
Employers indicate that, just as the challenges facing their employees are more complex today than in the past, their expectations of employees have also increased. The vast majority of employers say their organizations are looking for employees to use a broader set of skills and have higher levels of learning and knowledge than in the past. Nearly 88% of employers agree that the challenges their employees face within their organization are more complex today than they were before. Nine in ten employers acknowledge that they are asking their employees to take on more responsibilities and to use a broader range of skills than in the past.
Employers value active and innovative teaching methods:
Employers see a positive benefit in educational innovations that foster active learning and research skills. The following “high impact” teaching tools were viewed as the most beneficial by the companies surveyed.
Employers desire a wide range of high-level learning outcomes when vetting recent graduates:
Employers see several key learning outcomes as vital to increase a graduate’s potential to be a successful and contributing member of today’s global economy. The learning outcomes that employers perceive to be critical range from communication skills to critical thinking, from ethical decision-making to the real-world application of knowledge and skills.