Scaling of Skill Building in Higher Education

Part of the problem with the skills gap is a disconnect in expectations between employers and education institutions regarding job preparedness. As colleges build a more modern-day curriculum, they must balance the building of transferable and technical skills and domain knowledge. My alma mater, a college in upstate NY, has decided a liberal arts curriculum – one that favors building transferable skills – is best for their students; this is evident by a recent decision to drop their computer science program. Other educational institutions understand the importance in building technical skills and want to get their students on track to make a contribution in their chosen discipline. And the wildcard is building domain knowledge, an important requirement in many disciplines such as economics, information systems, public policy, etc.

Scaling Skills

Higher education must balance transferable and technical skills and domain knowledge into their curriculum.

Many employers think candidates lack technical skills. I think employers should play a more active role in addressing their concerns by publishing precisely what technical skills they demand and expecting to take some of the responsibility and cost in building them when they hire new employees. Once the demand for these technical skills is transparent, educational institutions can add resources to build them in their curriculum and professionals can find ways to build them through various learning channels in a more cost-efficient and effective way.

To address the skills gap, there needs to be an understanding between educational institutions, employers, and professionals regarding who is responsible for building required skills.

Some other points:

  • This weighing of transferable and technical skills should be considered in the standard high school curriculum too.
  • The soaring cost of higher education makes the debate of educating technical vs. transferable skills even more prickly. College graduates must get jobs when they graduate, so they can start paying off their college debt. Job preparedness is of the up most importance.
  • Publishing the demand for skills is a move in the right direction.
  • I referred to a Future Works Skills 2020 study to identify emerging transferable skills (in the graphic)

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