The economy is changing—and colleges need to understand the trends if they're going to prepare students for tomorrow's job market, says Jeff Selingo, author of three books on higher ed and a columnist for the Washington Post.
"We tend to overestimate the speed of change in higher education, and in any industry, but we tend to underestimate the depth of change," Selingo argues, Amy Burroughs writes in EdTech magazine.
For example, Selingo cites research from Oxford University that found 47% of U.S. jobs could be eliminated in the near future by automation. He argues that such research underlines the urgency of rethinking career development on campus.
Selingo recommends three strategies for colleges to adapt to trends in the labor market and ensure their future students will have jobs.
1: Emphasize soft skills in the curriculum
Selingo has spent the past two years interviewing employers and he says he's noticed a trend: they all report that recent graduates are lacking in soft skills such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and organization.
Selingo argues that this gap is largely driven by an outdated higher education system that primarily prepares students to complete "rote tasks" and an "established set of processes." He encourages colleges to teach students the soft skills that will empower them to continue learning after they leave school.
2: Encourage students to get hands-on experience
The average age at which recent graduates become financially independent has risen from age 26 in 1983 to age 30 today, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.
Selingo argues that one of the ways to fight this trend is to encourage more students to take internships. He cites data showing that the students who prove most adept at jumping into a career after graduation are the ones who had internships in college.
3: Create opportunities for lifelong learning
Finally, Selingo encourages colleges to look for opportunities to support lifelong learning. He argues that there's huge demand for continuing education, citing examples such as: the array of "how to" YouTube videos and their popularity among young people, websites like Coursera and Codeacademy that teach people of any age how to code, and the proliferation of alternative online credentials like MicroMaster's degrees (Burroughs, EdTech, 7/19).
How you can use trends in employer demand to improve decisions about academic programs
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