Colleges Get Career-Minded: Some View Issue of Employability as “Mission-Critical”

This story in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention: http://intranews.sns.it/intranews/20120523/MI43141.PDF .  The thrust is that the transformative [my word] economic downturn has forced colleges -especially those with a liberal arts curriculum at the core of their mission- to consider and/or devise coursework and programs tied to practical workplace-related experience.  Or said in another way, “blending liberal and applied learning.”  Are we supposed to be shocked with the very idea that institutions should be concerned with the readiness of their graduates to enter the workforce?  According to this article, “some schools [how many is that?]” are moving forward to make career development a “mission critical” aspect of the college experience.

I’d like to know where those institutions are where the future careers of their students are not considered, on any level, “mission critical.”   I agree with those who are wary of pushing too close to the line which separates the liberal arts from purely pre-professional training; however, I also believe that the idea of college as learning  within cloistered ivory towers is a thing of the past for the majority of college-age students.  I disagree with the President of Wesleyan College, Michael Roth, who is quoted as saying, “When people start talking about employability, what they’re really talking about is conformity.”  Really?  It’s time to get real about the needs of most students who need to purposefully build bridges to their career interests throughout their four years – and institutions can do this without compromising their core academic values.  It may take greater imagination and innovation to develop these bridges at Wesleyan…

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3 replies »

  1. Unfortunately, the business of adult education is just that…a business. Programs are adjusted or removed and replaced with programs that will increase the institution’s bottom line. Sometimes these program do both – benefit the students and contribute to the organizations bottom line; however, I believe, the bottom line will always be the institution’s number one priority…regardless of what their mission/vision statement says. This paradigm needs to shift if we expect to remain on our “perch” as the world’s largest economy.

  2. The idea that a college education is either pure OR vocational is losing favor for the reasons you describe in your post, Marty. As the media, federal government, and the public conitinue to scrutinize the value of a college degree, I believe we will see more of a “both / and” perspective.

    • Marianna: Thanks for your comment. I think the next big thing for higher ed is to accept this global reality and become more creative about building partnerships with employers in all sectors to enhance prospects for employability. I know you get this as would any career service professional —it’s the faculty that needs to get on board.

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