The dean of a community college, who blogs anonymously about his profession and has worked at three different colleges, recently wrote about a meeting with a set of local employers. Community colleges, of course, work closely with nearby employers on technical programs and certifications. The number one thing these employers wanted was not specific, technical training. They wanted people who can write.
Some variation on that happens at every employer advisory board. We hear about the specific skills or knowledge bases needed in a given field, and that varies widely from field to field. (The specific skills in, say, medical billing are different from the ones in Culinary.) But then the discussion turns to general communication skills, especially in writing, and the employers get really animated. That’s where they shift from a relatively dispassionate analysis of industry trends to really passionate stories of frustration with flaws they don’t know how to fix. They can train people around new pieces of hardware or new regulations, but they don’t know what to do with people who can’t write clearly enough to be understood.You don’t even have to know which industry I’m referring to; it applies to all of them. (emphasis added)
We hear a lot in the education press about how people need “real-world skills” and technical training. But technical training becomes outmoded almost as soon as someone completes it. What employers really want are people who can learn and communicate. Imagine that. They want just what the liberal arts offer.