kitchen table math, the sequel: today's employers want = research shows

Thursday, February 22, 2007

today's employers want = research shows

As a conversational trump card, the phrase "today's employers want" is right up there with "research shows."

What do today's employers want?

They want what ed schools want!

Today's employers want graduates who can communicate effectively, think critically, solve problems, and work as part of a team—in short, graduates who are well versed in collaborative learning environments. Whether you call it project-based or collaborative learning, it's a strategy that a growing number of educators are employing in their classrooms—and with growing success.

I dissent.

Ed (for newbies: professor of European history) talks to today's employers quite often in his role as Director of the Institute of French Studies at NYU.

Today's employers have never once, to my knowledge, told him they want employees who can "communicate effectively, think critically, solve problems, and work as part of a team."

What today's employers routinely tell him is that they want employees with a solid education in the liberal arts.

Today's employers appear to believe, on the basis of long experience, that the ability to communicate effectively, think critically, solve problems, and work as part of a team is the natural result of a college eduation in the liberal arts.

9 comments:

Tracy said...

Really?

NZ employers tend to say that they want people who can turn up to work on time consistently and reand and write.

From my own experience, employers seem to prefer people who have done a university degree involving a lot of maths.

Catherine Johnson said...

Interesting.

It's true.

Business types constantly tell professors they want liberal arts.

I don't know whether that's limited to New York.

Turn up to work on time goes without saying (in these conversations).

To be more specific, very often these conversations are about the value of a business degree as opposed to a liberal arts degree.

High-level corporate types always say they want the liberal arts degree (I'd say, from a distance, that their actions are consistent with this report).

We're talking about an undergraduate business degree, btw.

Business types seem never to talk about wanting students who've majored in math, interestingly enough.

Catherine Johnson said...

They definitely don't talk about "skills" in the sense of a formal skill such as reading, writing, etc. that can be applied to anything at all.

They say "liberal arts."

Their reasoning is always that liberal arts grads have the best skills, which according to Hirsch (and, I think, to cog sci) ought to be true.

Anonymous said...

To be more specific, very often these conversations are about the value of a business degree as opposed to a liberal arts degree.

I get it, liberal arts as opposed to business majors. I don't know what I didn't think of that. (I'm not being sarcastic.)

And they hire "specialists" to do their mathiness...programmers, staticians, engineers, so they don't need a generalist. This indicates to me that they don't believe that what one acquires in a good math program isn't anything that can be generalized beyond the specific calculations and applications which they believe math education to be about.

That is an ongoing topic at my house.

Catherine Johnson said...

This indicates to me that they don't believe that what one acquires in a good math program isn't anything that can be generalized beyond the specific calculations and applications which they believe math education to be about.

Well....I just don't know, because math is part of liberal arts.

Bear in mind that these are corporate types talking to a professor of history, not math.

Catherine Johnson said...

I suspect that if you canvassed business leaders they'd name history as their preferred major for college grads.

I also think they're probably right about this.

Based in the principle that broad background knowledge, i.e. a liberal arts education, makes you a faster learner I suspect history probably gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

SteveH said...

"Business types seem never to talk about wanting students who've majored in math, interestingly enough."

Business types (upper management)don't hire math types. They may authorize the job posting, but they are clueless after that. I always laugh when I hear about business types talking about what they want out of education. They want cheap labor that can get the job done.

What do the people who make the decisions want? Skills and experience. What have you worked on and how good are you? For the "high tech" world, it's a balance. They don't want newbies without experience and they don't want older people, who have experience(and high salary), but are not necessarily up to date on the latest technology. Younger people tend to have more drive and less commitments. Many companies are known to chew them up and spit them out, driven by good salaries and stock options. Can you say 60+ hour work weeks?

There is little loyalty anymore. Businesses do not care about employees as individuals. Salaries and benefits might be good, but you could be out on the street in an instant. High tech types have to be very careful about what jobs they work on and what experience they get. Many thought that Digital's VAX and VMS OS would go on forever. Now the Unix types better watch out, and I'm not talking about Linux. This has nothing to do with education.

Catherine Johnson said...

wait!

you're telling me the people actually doing the hiring aren't looking for job candidates with "middle school model" under education?

Anonymous said...

I can't help it...

Whenever the topic of what employers want comes up, I think of the Fedex commercial in which the young employee just cannot locate China on the world map, despite several attempts.

What a great poke at our school systems!