The number of video game design programs has increased dramatically in recent years, responding to demand from students more than demand from employers. Many of these programs are at the community college level, giving students associate degrees to take into the job market.
The problem is, there were only 6,000 jobs posted in video game design last year, according to Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies. Out of those 6,000 jobs, 89% required a bachelor’s degree or higher, and fewer than 5% were open to candidates with no prior experience.
Sometimes the jobs students are being prepared for in college degree programs don’t match the need in the economy. Two college presidents, one representing a liberal arts school and the other representing a community college, weighed in on the actual significance of such misalignments at a recent seminar for higher education journalists.
Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College in central Florida, said it is often hard to develop programs because of the two starkly different economies that exist near Orlando. One is a highly skilled knowledge economy and the other is a hospitality and tourism-related service economy. Valencia College is a multi-campus community college that also offers some bachelor’s degrees. It is doing its best by creating stackable credentials, giving adults the opportunity to take a few classes and then get a job, adding additional layers of education from there.
The key, Shugart said, is providing short certificate programs that give people the opportunity to go from $10 to $12 an hour and continue climbing. A major focus has been experimenting with fast programs that have waiting jobs on the other side.
But Grant Cornwall, president of nearby Rollins College, argues that post-secondary schools should not simply be job training centers.
“Is education for the next job?” Cornwall queried. “If so, then that kind of training is great for the student and our economy. But I have to mention the other timeline — education that prepares students for a full career.”
Even in very technical jobs, Burning Glass Technologies’ data shows one-quarter to one-third of skills employees need are soft skills, the type that are taught in liberal arts programs. Many employers have begun to require bachelor’s degrees as a proxy for the soft skills that are otherwise hard to measure.
Sigelman said on the same higher education panel that foundational, or soft, skills give adults the ability to move across fields, and those who pair them with technical skills have a significant advantage in the job marketplace.
Cornwall doesn’t agree with the narrative that liberal arts programs are losing relevance. He said, though, that institutions have ignored their students' futures for too long, focusing only on the rigorous intellectual training during their degree programs. To address the jobs challenge for today’s students, Cornwall recommends proper mentoring.
“Part of the mentoring we owe our students is to create a four-year process of creating intentionality and purpose so when they attain their degree, they can talk about the skills they acquired and match them with a career,” Cornwall said. “It’s not fair or responsible to ask kids to do that on their own.”
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