The trends around the Big Blur and hiring students without college degrees point to a common idea-mismatch between what is taught and work industry standards. Our focus this time is somewhere between the two, which includes teaching students the skills that the dynamic times demand but rendering learning beyond the scope of a mere textbook.
Since regular classes have started post-pandemic, there has been a lot of pressure on students and teachers. Students have reported that sometimes the sessions run fast, making it difficult to keep up with the assignments, projects, or exams.
There has been a lot of discussion on the industry-institution partnership to enable a realistic and relevant education system. Students in college learn the skills needed to complete their tasks.
However, some skills help employees complete the tasks effectively, on time, and efficiently. These general skills that improve the employability of an individual include:
- Creative thinking
- Time management
- Feedback analysis
Let’s face it! Management students read about them and probably also get some practical sense of how important these skills are, but what about the non-management students?
Skills like time management, feedback analysis, collaboration, and communication are universally needed by individuals working in all types of organizations. But do our colleges focus on such skills?
Today, we talk about lean structures, with self-managed groups requiring little or no management. These teams may or may not be physically working together. So, for every team member, having specific general skills is extremely significant.
A team with one member in LA, one in NY, and another in Chicago would not give effective results until they know how to communicate in time, take responsibility, give feedback, and coordinate. These skills are not what just a management student should be taught; students with technical backgrounds would also require them.
Institutions have a responsibility to hold on to
Universities and colleges need to ensure that their students blend in the work environment and are least shocked when exposed to corporate work culture. We are in the era of Gen X and Z, who are multi-taskers. These generations question every status quo, are technology-savvy, and can learn independently.
Multitasking young generation
But how do they know what the corporate world needs? They would not understand until they either get into jobs or the institutions enlighten them.
Students should be taught skills that are required in the current work environment, which is dynamic.
The talk around skill gaps is not new, but it is still relevant. And it seems that since the pandemic struck, it has influenced almost every aspect of business and education.
According to the latest Mercer and Mettl research report on L&D, a quarter of employees feel that the skills needed for the work environment have changed, and a quarter of them believe that soft skills take priority over other skills.
These skills include communication and empathy in the top order soft skills that require employees to work in the current environment (remote/hybrid). As much as 38% of companies have decided to increase their learning and development budget by 20-50%.
Just like companies update their L&D programs as per the current industry needs, so can the universities.
Perhaps we can save them some money. Students can easily learn these skills while in college. All we need is some industry collaboration with institutions.
Focus on Financial skills
It is not just about general skills. There are other skills that make an individual ready for real life. We believe essential domains of knowledge, such as financial education, should be taught in colleges.
Recently, a study by Bankrate tells that nearly 22% of Americans have higher credit card debt than savings. Among them, the Millennials comprise the largest number. The study delineated that a majority of Americans struggle to understand what the focus of their finance management-paying debts or savings should be.
These trends show concern because they ultimately impact the economy. Poor finance management can increase the social liability of the government.
People worldwide understood the value of savings during the pandemic that caused income depletion, triggered by unemployment and expensive utilities. Instilling some pecuniary sense into students can help them float through rough times, clear their basic investment doubts, and improve their financial future.
How can colleges make students industry-ready?
The idea of a college education is to make it more holistic. Instead of only equipping them with core subject knowledge, let them also be aware of necessary soft skills that can make a difference in their lives once they graduate.
The following three ideas can steer a college and the student toward industry readiness.
Include more Coop programs in their college
There are college programs that allow students to gain work experience along with their college degrees. Many colleges offer such programs, also known as co-op programs. These programs tend to deliver the best of both, theory and practical knowledge.
The idea is to teach real-life skills to the students in such a way that they are exposed to the industry needs and still have time to acquire those skills. These programs have been there for a while, but skill gaps remain.
Perhaps the students can also act as agents of knowledge and give the institutions feedback about the curriculum’s learning gaps, bringing them in sync with the current industry requirements.
Conduct yearly review programs with the companies
Institutions can conduct yearly or two-yearly review meetings with companies that have previously hired students from colleges or with companies that are willing to make campus recruitments in the coming year. This can help the institutions understand which skills are preferable so that they can align their curriculum or projects to instill those skills in the students.
Use the Alumni
Alumni are one of the biggest assets of institutions. And alumni who are in big companies or entrepreneurs are treasures for the institutions. The institutions can request the alumni to not only enlighten the students and institutions about what topics are obsolete and what skills are much needed but also about how those skills can be achieved.