- A new book co-authored by University of Wisconsin — Madison researchers and a Wisconsin-based education analyst suggests that higher education is improperly targeted as a cause and solution for shifts in American industry and workforce development.
- In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, two of the authors say that the perceived "skills gap" in college graduates is creating a demand for higher education to teach and refine job-specific talent, but could undermine the ability for graduates to think critically, creatively and to advance to higher levels of professional attainment.
- The authors specifically cite interviews with employers in STEM industries who say a focus on job training alone is a hindrance to corporate success. "...if someone can’t also work on a team, communicate verbally and in writing, be a creative problem solver, and continually work hard and learn new things, they ultimately act as a drag on company productivity and profit, whether they are technically qualified or not," they told Inside Higher Ed.
Employers, specifically from STEM industries, are suggesting the higher education response to workforce development needs is trending in the wrong direction. Their reaction accompanies research on lifetime earning potential of liberal arts graduates versus STEM graduates, and anecdotal insight from some of the nation's top research institutions.
So how can college leaders meld the idea of providing trained workers to grow important sectors, while still encouraging the educational model that develops human flourishing? In some cases, the answer is developing new approaches to general education and competency-based learning models, which address costs, can ensure well-rounded learning experiences and benefit industrial growth.