Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Employment and Market Data and Trends

Mark Zandi

Mark Zandi makes a point.

Where are the jobs of the future? Top sectors will be energy and the environment, and health and wellness, said Steve Nelson, partner and managing director of Wakefield Group and the co-chair North Carolina Innovation Council.

Are we teaching our young people to be swift, bold and decisive? If so, liberal arts students will fair well in these fields. Students today, said Nelson, must embrace “creative destruction” and be ready to change operational paradigms to improve success.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that the returns to higher education are high and have risen significantly in the last quarter century. He also noted the recent recession was more benign for workers with higher education. But for colleges to continue to succeed, they must be able to convince businesses that what they are doing (educating articulate students with an understanding of global issues who are able to write well and think critically) will increase value for employers.

To do this, faculty, advisors and administrators must help liberal arts students tell their stories, said Philip Gardner, director of research with the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. “Liberal arts students need to learn how to translate their academic experiences into something that makes sense to employers.” He also said research shows that businesses are most interested in students who have held internships because it is easier for employers to understand the value of these experiences.

Panelists agreed that silos at educational institutions are harmful, and that in order for a liberal education to work, faculty must know how to connect across departments. Rather than drill deeper into their own academic disciplines, faculty must learn to think broadly. “Narrow learning is not an option when the world we are preparing students for is an innovation-driven economy,” said Debra Humphreys, vice president for communications and public affairs at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

To better prepare students for transition from college to career, panelists suggested universities develop stronger relationships with local and regional employers, including developing internship opportunities. Humphreys suggested that colleges require every student to complete a capstone project before graduating — one that involves working with a team to solve a real-world problem and being able to discuss methods, successes and challenges related to that project.

At the end of the discussion, Gardner made a surprising prediction for the future of student recruiting. Social media will allow businesses to pinpoint first-year students entering a university as potential employees before the students even arrive on campus. Companies will approach the career center having already identified 40 or so students they are interested in employing after graduation. The company will be able to groom and guide these students before they have enrolled in their first class — creating internships and learning experiences tailored to developing particular skills that meet the organization’s needs.

Tomorrow’s high school student will be less concerned with Facebook and more concerned with creating an electronic portfolio for future career opportunities.

— Guest post by Kim McGrath,
Wake Forest Communication and External Relations,
from the “Rethinking Success” conference

Category: Rethinking Success