Looking at current trends in education, one that is mostly prevailing is the necessity of aligning programme content with workforce needs (Bersnick, 2022). What it basically means is that university-taught programmes should concentrate more on developing a specific skill set allowing students to navigate job market, rather than concentrate predominantly on developing academic skills.
Different students, different needs
Bearing in mind that the student population (especially online programmes student population), includes a larger proportion of adults at later life stages, attention needs to be paid to their specific needs. Adult student population has different needs and expectations in comparison to high school graduates starting their academic journey. What adult students are looking for is ongoing learning and retooling to meet job market requirements, a qualification that helps them to grow or shift their careers. This is why MBA programmes are so popular among adult learners looking for managerial qualifications, as they offer programme content concentrating on gaining practical skills and studying real-life scenarios, exchanging ideas and experiences between students who are working professionals.
Adjusting programme content to learn and more importantly practice soft and hard skills needed to succeed in future careers is also beneficial for high school graduates starting their journey with higher education, as it allows preparing them for job market requirements. It is natural that graduating from college individuals have no professional experience entering the job market, however, enriching programme content to teach skills aligned with future employer requirements makes the start of their career easier and better prepares graduates for a new work era (Bersnick, 2022).
Soft and hard skills
Thus, graduating with a degree, students should not only be equipped with the know-how for their dream job but also with the soft-skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. Being able to demonstrate these qualities during interviews will show an individual gained more from university than just a degree certificate.
Hard skills are pertinent to the role and the performed work itself. They are technical skills that differ from industry to industry and they can be taught. They may include computer skills, driving, design skills, marketing/content or management skills. As much as these are part of the curriculum, the question is whether the curriculum leaves space for practice and studying these based on real-life examples, where students are encouraged to use them rather than just read about them without any practical approach.
Among soft skills, the most desirable include ability to work in teams, communication, time management, problem-solving skills, creativity, and taking constructive criticism (Hurcum, 2018). Soft skills, contrary to hard skills, are not directly pertinent to your job, however, they are necessary for just about any job. Also, they are not qualities that can be easily taught, but they can be trained.
Soft skills are excellent asset even with no substantial professional experience
Why do soft skills matter for fresh graduates? With no experience in place, applying for certain positions can be challenging, however, proving your knowledge and supporting during the interview with some classroom examples, and demonstrating your soft skills, can take you further than you think and turn out to be a real asset. This is why, it is crucial to let students practice these skills and expose them to situations when these can be exercised. A graduate with excellent industry know-how but with no soft skills is not really prepared to embrace the new life chapter – transforming from a student to an employee, which can be a rough and tough curve.
Education should be transformative, and a degree something more than proof of undertaking a four-year-long study. Higher studies should prepare graduates for entering the job market not just offering to equip them with a set of technical qualifications necessary to do the job but also skills required for a graduate to feel comfortable entering a new environment and embracing it.
Bresnick, P. (2022) “5 Higher Ed Trends to Look for Going Into 2023”, Fierce Education. Available on: https://www.fierceeducation.com/student-engagement/5-higher-ed-trends-look-going-2023 (Accessed: 9 November 2022)
Hurcum, O. (2018) “Five Soft Skills You Develop at University” Topuniversities.com. Available on: https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/careers-advice/five-soft-skills-you-develop-university (Accessed: 10 November 2022).