The economy is, and has been, the most important issue in America for the past 3 years. In 2008, jobs were being cut left and right. No one seemed to be hiring. Things looked dire. In 2011, one could argue that companies are hiring. Yet, unemployment numbers haven’t improved as they should. Some employers argue that taxes, revenues, and losses are contributing to lack of vacancies. Contrarily, some employers argue that there are indeed openings. The problem is that there aren’t enough skilled applicants out there to fill vacancies.
Somebody is lying.
Considering the latter, how do we approach this problem? Americans are more educated than ever before. In 2002, it was reported that 80% of Americans are graduates of high school or higher, compared to 75% in 1990 (http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2002-06-05-education-census.htm). Here’s a newsflash: It’s 2011, and more folks are getting degrees. Colleges are reporting more incoming freshmen than ever. Tuition costs are skyrocketing. Getting a degree is sexy now.
So where are the jobs? The cost of living isn’t going down anytime soon… or ever. What’s the solution?
There is saying about Harvard: Colleges train students to look for jobs. Harvard trains students to create jobs. Personally, I believe there are two solutions to the problem: Jobs training and Innovation.
Considering innovation, we need more entrepreneurs. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, the heads of some of America’s biggest, most successful companies are college dropouts. Does this mean we need more college dropouts? Certainly not. But if there are more people in college than ever before, being groomed to look for jobs, then that means there are less people looking to create jobs.
Considering jobs training, colleges need to look at preparing students to enter successful careers in the workforce. This means equipping students with skills that hiring managers are looking for in potential employees. Here’s a hint: Knowing how to use Microsoft Word is not a skill that sets you apart from other applicants. For most hiring managers, it’s an assumed skill.
What skills, then, would be considered crucial for someone to land at least an entry level job in today’s market? Here are a couple:
Computer Literacy – We’re in the technology age. Most employers are no longer even taking paper job applications or resumes anymore. Everything is moving online. If you have trouble creating a Google account, then you might have trouble filling out a job application online nowadays. Computer literacy, at the least today, involves fundamental competencies in using a computer for word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and navigating websites.
Soft Skills – Employers are looking for people who work well on their own as well as in groups. Can you give a presentation to a small group if need be? Do you have good verbal and written communication skills? Do you have a positive attitude? Employers aren’t just looking for good workers, but also good people.
What other skills would you say are crucial to the workforce? Though needs vary from job to job, what are some skills that are mandatory, yet transferable, across the board?