State Schools Grads Favored in Hiring

13 Sep

Be prepared!

People are buzzing about the big WSJ higher ed article today that cites a survey saying employers favor state school graduates when hiring. The study is based on 43,000 hires in America, focusing on employer recruiters instead of test scores, starting salary, or admissions rates as measures of school success.

The research highlighted a split in perception about state and private schools. Recruiters who named an Ivy League or elite liberal-arts school as a top pick say they prize their graduates’ intellect and cachet among clients, as well as “soft skills” like critical thinking and communication. But many companies said they need people with practical skills to serve as operations managers, product developers, business analysts and engineers. For those employees—the bulk of their work force—they turn to state institutions or other private schools offering that.

And there you have it. Practical skills. Employers want practical skills which are virtually non-existent among liberal artists. To me, it further outlines how liberal arts schools need to begin distinguishing their graduates while staying true to their brand of education. Without giving up the liberal arts, you distinguish your graduates by giving them an lens of expertise and experiences. First, the lens of expertise is a set of skills that not all other liberal arts grads have. I would suggest Middlebury’s lens is an international perspective and cultural understanding by knowing a language. This gets graduates a leg up on international appointments, work abroad, and multinational corporations. Second, the experiences are key in building the “practical” skills. I would suggest better internships, more use of hands-on class projects that involve the community, more research opportunities in all fields, and an increase in year-of-service programs post-graduation.

To me, it’s not about waiting around to see if the liberal arts will come back in style. Liberal arts schools need to go after preparing students to ensure that a well-versed background is coupled with usable skills for the workplace.

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