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Submission + - Skills Gap? Employers and Colleges Point Fingers at Each Other (

Joe_Dragon writes: For much of the first decade of the new millennium, Samuel J. Palmisano and A.G. Lafley led two of the biggest names in American business: IBM and Procter & Gamble. By the time they were named chief executive officers, the two iconic companies were in need of the makeovers the two leaders eventually helped engineer. The two men have something else in common as well: They graduated from college with degrees in the liberal arts.

Palmisano and Lafley both credit their undergraduate education for their accomplishments. As chief executives, and now in retirement, they often talk about the inherent importance of the liberal arts to a successful workplace where creativity, problem solving, flexibility, and teamwork are paramount.

With the liberal arts "you get to exercise your whole brain," says Lafley, who graduated with a history degree from Hamilton College. "Inductively reasoning in the science courses, deductively reasoning in some of the philosophy and humanities courses, abductively reasoning in design. You understand inquiry. You understand advocacy."

Palmisano maintains that college graduates need a "deep skill" in some academic subject, but that depth in one area needs to be supplemented with other knowledge. "If you're deep in math and science or engineering, you've got to balance it with the humanities because you have to work in these multicultural global environments in the broadest sense of diversity. All religions. All cultures. All languages," says Palmisano, who majored in behavioral social sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

In survey after survey, employers seem to agree that the skill they most want in future workers is adaptability. Those who hire complain that they often find today's college graduates lacking in interpersonal skills, problem solving, effective written and oral communication skills, teamwork, and the ability to think critically and analytically. Employers say that future workplaces need those skills as well as degree holders who can come up with novel solutions to problems and better sort through information to filter out the most critical pieces.

So which college majors best arm students with those skills? That question has touched off heated discussions between those who advocate for the content of a practical major and others who think that the skills of a liberal-arts major are the best insurance in rapidly changing fields.

Employers are almost evenly split on the issue. In one survey, 45 percent of hiring managers said they preferred that students get an education that specifically prepares them for the workplace; 55 percent favored a broad-based education.

"Ideally, you want to do both," Richard Arum tells me. Arum is a co-author of Academically Adrift, the 2011 book that found that almost half of students failed to improve their critical-thinking skills in the first two years of college.

Arum says the field of study matters less than how much you work in the major. For instance, mathematics and science majors don't write or read much for their classes, but they show gains in critical thinking because they spend the most hours studying. "It doesn't matter what these students focus on," Arum says, "as long as they focus on it in a rigorous way."

It is easy for Palmisano and Lafley to advocate hiring people with liberal-arts degrees. IBM and Proctor & Gamble are well known for their training programs. Take smart college graduates, put them through apprenticeships, and of course it doesn't really matter what they majored in.

But most companies are not like IBM and Proctor & Gamble. Corporate training has largely disappeared, along with the recruiters whose job it was to locate the best candidates for those programs, argues Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and author of Why Good People Can't Get Jobs (click on the link to get a free e-book copy this week).

Cappelli tells me that while corporate CEOs might say they favor applicants with a broad education at the foundation, those leaders are largely removed from the hiring process. The people on the front lines of hiring these days are lower-level managers who want jobs filled by people who can do the work immediately.

"This plays on the prejudices of the hiring manager," he says. "If they think they need someone with a master's degree, they'll ask for that. If they think it will take too long to train a liberal-arts graduate, they will toss those applications aside. All without evidence of what's really needed to do the job."

Those who hire also receive their initial pool of candidates through a screening process that has largely been taken out of human hands with automated software that scans applications and resumés for certain keywords. "They can't imagine the job skills or experiences you don't program into them," including nontechnical degrees, Cappelli says.

It's unlikely that the technology used in hiring will be jettisoned anytime soon, so what can be done?

First, employers who overrely on such technology and then complain they can't find qualified people to fill jobs should take a page from how some of the most admired companies hire and realize that they are passing over potentially skilled employees when they cut corners.

Second, colleges need to better prepare students for the transition from school to work. It's not just courses on figuring out how to get a job or manage a career, but real work experiences need to be created for students through co-ops or postgraduate internships where they can apply their knowledge and continue to learn.

Third, we need to bring back the idea of the apprenticeship, especially in manufacturing. Cappelli notes in his book that, for 12 million manufacturing jobs in the United States now, there are only 18,000 apprentices. Apprenticeships would take some of the pressure off the squeezed community-college systems in many states and reduce the loan burden for students. Apprenticeships would also help employers who complain about the lack of skilled labor and the coming wave of retirements in manufacturing.

And finally, at the four-year level, we need stronger connections between colleges and employers. Right now, employers see themselves as detached consumers of what colleges produce, and academics are sometimes hostile to the notion that they are simply training students for jobs.

One small example of what could be done comes from Minnesota, where CEOs and college leaders — including Brian C. Rosenberg, president of Macalester College (a liberal-arts institution) — have teamed up to figure out how to better align academic programs with work-force needs.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Cappelli notes that the best students, regardless of major, mostly go on to work at investment banks and consulting firms because they recruit heavily and have intensive training programs (of course, the pay is a big attraction too).

One could argue that those two industries provide important services but not much value to expand the economy for the future. But just imagine if more companies provided the training that the banks and consultants do. Perhaps then we'd have fewer people worrying about the demise of the liberal arts.

Submission + - Innovative Harper College manufacturing program spreading statewide (

Joe_Dragon writes: "The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $12.9 million in federal funding to expand Harper College’s new Advanced Manufacturing program to schools across Illinois, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Thursday.

The Palatine community college, in collaboration with regional manufacturers, launched its Advanced Manufacturing program this semester to help replenish the pipeline of skilled workers. A recent Manufacturing Institute report found that U.S. companies can’t fill an estimated 600,000 positions in the advanced manufacturing sector.
Related articles
Romney hails Harper, business partnership in Elk Grove Harper College manufacturing program leaders in D.C. Manufacturing making slow resurgence in the suburbs Harper officially announces Advanced Manufacturing program Harper, manufacturers team to replenish pipeline of skilled workers

“Harper Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Degree and Training Program is a great example of an innovative partnership that is putting people back to work, filling critical shortages at growing businesses and manufacturers, and spurring local economic development,” Durbin said in a statement. “I was pleased to welcome the program’s representatives to Washington earlier this year to hear them share their experience and discuss how to apply their successful practices to other communities, which is exactly what this funding will allow them to do.”

Harper President Ken Ender said the college was among 54 institutions selected for the Department of Labor’s $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant, a four-year initiative to support partnerships between community colleges and employers.

Harper’s program offers industry-endorsed skills certificates and paid internships with local manufacturers. It’s also designed to encourage younger students to consider a manufacturing career by offering college credit to high school students.

Harper, which will receive about $600,000 for program support, will act as the lead institution and manage the distribution of funds. Each school will offer the same advanced manufacturing degree at identical tuition rates, though the certification specialties may vary.

Some money will be used to purchase a mobile lab to introduce elementary school students to manufacturing, as well as develop a statewide job placement system. There’s also an accountability factor, as Harper must analyze the grant’s effectiveness.

“On behalf of our manufacturing and community college partners, we are very pleased to be awarded this grant which will help train workers for 21st century jobs throughout Illinois,” Ender said. “These aren’t stereotypical factories anymore. It’s high-tech manufacturing using state-of-the-art equipment that requires good math and computer skills as well as critical thinking. We believe our fast track curriculum combined with paid internships will help provide manufacturers with the workers they need in order to grow and thrive in a global economy.”

The program will expand to about 20 community colleges, including College of Lake County, College of DuPage, Oakton Community College, Elgin Community College, McHenry County College, Triton College and Waubonsee Community College."

Now something like is needed for more jobs like jobs in the IT field that need on the job learning and not just years of pure class room with a big skills gap.

Submission + - college is no place for remedial education (

Joe_Dragon writes: "More than 2 million U.S. college students this fall will be spending a good bit of their time reviewing what they were supposed to learn in high school or even earlier. They are taking “remedial” education courses.

A recent study issued by ACT Inc., a testing organization measuring “college readiness,” found that less than one-third of graduating high-school seniors met benchmark standards for science, and a majority failed to meet them for math. Even in English and reading, a large minority of students were below a level that would mostly earn a grade of C or better in college- level work.

The results are depressing. In science, most students don’t come close (within three points) of meeting the ACT benchmark standards. Yes, it is often pointed out, some population groups are less prepared than others: Only 5 percent of black students meet all four ACT criteria. But for white students, for every high-school graduate who meets the benchmarks, there are two who don’t. The student at least partially unprepared for college is the rule, not the exception.

To deal with the dismal preparation of many high-school students, colleges expand “remedial” courses in subjects such as math and English. The problem is that these courses do a bad job of correcting these deficiencies, even if you don’t believe that test scores are the most reliable way to determine college readiness.
Broken System

Complete College America, a group promoting better college academic success rates, concluded in a recent study that “remediation is a broken system.”

It is a big broken system. Most students entering community colleges are enrolled in at least one remedial course, while at four-year schools about a fifth of all students are. The study estimates that fewer than 10 percent of those entering remedial courses at community (two-year) colleges graduate within three years, and almost 65 percent of those at four-year institutions have no degree within six years (compared with about 44 percent for students not taking remedial courses). At a typical university, the people who teach the remedial courses most likely aren’t star professors known for their ability to make complex concepts clear; more often they’re lowly paid adjunct instructors or graduate students.

What to do? We know that high-school education in the U.S. is subpar by international standards, and that several decades of reform efforts have had only modest effects. Public education needs more competition and choice, and barriers to change — such as outmoded teaching seniority rules and nonmerit compensation structures — need to be removed. Coordination between those who determine high-school curriculums and college faculty who know what students need to be well-prepared is often nonexistent.

The challenge is to force colleges to face their own responsibility. Administrators will note that remedial college classes have existed for as long as there has been higher education in the U.S. But they should be ashamed of their role in protecting these failed programs for decades. One remedial education professor called it “a silent contract of fraud.”

Complete College America favors ditching most remedial courses and putting subpar students into regular classes — but with “just in time” tutoring that helps students master the relatively advanced materials taught in college survey courses. This approach may not work, but testing its effectiveness is worthwhile.
Dropout Costs

The bigger problem is that colleges admit students unlikely to succeed in the first place. Taking in subpar students leads to a “dumbing-down” of the curriculum for everyone. That may be why studies (such as “Academically Adrift” by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa) found little evidence that students were learning a whole lot or mastering critical-thinking skills in their college years.

U.S. colleges should not take hundreds of thousands of ill- prepared students and put them through ineffective remedial- education programs only to see them fail to graduate while running up significant college-loan debt. Instead, they should be encouraged — through the tightening of federal loan policies and other accountability incentives — to become more selective in their admission practices and reject students who show on tests, such as the ACT readiness exams, that they are not ready for college work.

Many of these academically marginal students might excel in non-college-degree vocational programs that teach skills in relatively high-demand jobs, which pay reasonably well. In today’s economy, why is a bachelor’s degree in marketing more valuable than training in high-tech manufacturing?

If the desire to give everyone a shot at the American dream trumps all of these arguments, however, at least consider outsourcing remedial teaching. There are for-profit companies that have provided supplemental learning to high-school students for years. Tie part of their compensation to college-performance improvements shown by the students in their programs.

Colleges aren’t geared to teaching secondary education to marginal students. This work should be handled by specialists with some track record. The young people stuck in this dysfunctional system deserve better than what they are getting.

(Richard Vedder directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and teaches economics at Ohio University. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Read more opinion online from Bloomberg View. Subscribe to receive a daily e-mail highlighting new View editorials, columns and op-ed articles.

Today’s highlights: the editors on a bolder plan to revive the housing market and on Somalia’s new president; Margaret Carlson on Republican efforts to suppress the vote; Clive Crook on why Germany’s currency nostalgia is off the mark; Peter Orszag on the money wasted in health care; Amity Shlaes on why Hoover haunts Romney but not Ryan.

To contact the writer of this article: Richard Vedder at

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Katy Roberts at "

The IT field needs non-college-degree vocational programs

Even places like MIT doesn't train people to do most of the day to day IT work and even some stuff like database work or data center work. Well they may teach more of high level theory stuff with skill gaps at the lower levels that you need to know to do IT work. And it comes with the full load of well rounded filler and fluff.

The tech schools do tech needed skills but it they can fall under the that's nice but it's not college trap and the ones that do offer degrees seem to get a bad rap.
That may be from them be jammed in to the degree system.

We also have places like tribeca flashpoint that are good but are only 2 years places so then you have the issues of people with the needed skills but they don't have a 4 year degree so they may not be able to get a job say running master control at a tv channel as they don't have a BA / BS in communications.

So why have people who are not cut out for college but can learn all the needed skills and more in half the time but some how some one with alot more book learning and a big real work skills gap is a better fit for the job?

Submission + - 10 Reasons to Skip the Expensive Colleges (

Joe_Dragon writes: Now some tech schools are some what Expensive but they don't have.
Professors at big research universities are often more interested in doing research and working with graduate students than teaching. Alot of them have Professors who do real world work.

They don't college dorms that cost more then renting apartments (even more so if you find room mates)

They don't have high cost meal plans that can work out to about $8-$12+ per meal but are set that you are forced to buy a full semester or more in 1 shot.

Tech and community colleges don't have big athletic programs that let sports starts get free rides.

Any ways the IT feed needs a mix of a Tech / community college setup + real world hands on work

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