The Workplace is the New Educational Institution

Our schools are failing our children on a colossal scale.  The attributes children nurture and acquire in school are not preparing them for the workforce.  Most academic institutions are entities, in and of themselves, designed to serve the needs of the administration, school boards and the academic elites in the university realm.  There are small pockets of schools that ‘get it’ and realize that our children and young adults are not prepared for the workforce upon graduation, even if jobs were available.  They are trying to make the shift. 

I constantly hear employers complaining about millennials and their entitled attitudes.  They bemoan their inability to understand the word deadline and are frustrated at their attitude that they need to be compensated at the level they expect, not what reality can provide.  The Bernie Sanders movement is evidence of this reality.  All the free stuff he is going to provide is going to come from… where?  Rich people of course.  Those same rich people who may have scrimped and saved to invest in a business.  Once they got the business they may have paid employees before themselves to keep the business afloat.  Those same rich people that put in years of long hard hours away from their family to get a little ahead.  Now don’t get me wrong, there is a huge disparate gap in income and some of the top 1% of the 1% are getting richer, while those struggling at the bottom are having a much harder time getting out of the bottom tier, but that is a discussion for another day.  

The point here is that the values, ethics and attitudes that span generations is significant. 

Schools used to be able to support parental values in school because the values were similar.  Now the values of some parents and some schools are so far apart that schools can no longer serve as a place to reinforce values taught in the home.  Thus, our youth do not have what it takes to make it in the workplace and that is perplexing businesses to the point where the word millennial is seen as toxic. 

We can argue all day about why this problem exists but it does not really matter.  It exists.  And the implications of that are evidenced in higher and higher ACT/SAT scores, more intellectual prowess, more athletic, musical or other extracurricular activity skills, but not the values, ethics, skills or knowledge that employers want. 

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) a Bethlehem, PA non-profit group that links college career placement offices with employers, ran a survey from mid-August through early October where it asked hiring managers what skills they plan to prioritize when they recruit from the class of 2015 at colleges and graduate schools. Though the survey sample is small—NACE collected responses from just 260 employers—the wisdom is sound. New and recent grads should pay attention. (Most of the respondents were large companies like Chevron, IBM and Seagate Technology.)

Here are the 10 skills employers say they seek, in order of importance. NACE gave each a rating on a 5-point scale, where 5 was extremely important, 4 was very important, 3 was somewhat important, etc.:

1. Ability to work in a team structure

2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)

3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization

4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work

5. Ability to obtain and process information

6. Ability to analyze quantitative data

7. Technical knowledge related to the job

8. Proficiency with computer software programs

9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports

10. Ability to sell and influence others

Education is changing… but slowly.  It is changing much slower than the work world is evolving. 

The academic world, by design, changes much more slowly than the world of media, but we are a knowledge industry too and are no more likely, in the long run, to flourish by sticking to a 19th century model in the second decade of the 21st. Pointing this out sometimes upsets people who would rather not think about it, but I am no more rooting for disaster than Top of Form

someone who is on the deck of the Titanic saying, “Hey, I think I see an iceberg out there.” I don’t think the changes coming in education are as destructive as the Titanic’s sinking – though for some involved, it may seem that way. Indeed, as I’ve noted, I expect that for the consumers of education, they are likely to be largely beneficial. But I do think that, beneficial or not, substantial changes are inevitable. It is past time to think about how to make those changes as rewarding as possible for everyone.


The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself by Glenn Harlan Reynolds


So what are employers to do…  ?  Until educational models evolve and change, the workplace will be the new educational institution for the rising generation.  The work places that adapt and accept that role will succeed.  Those who don’t will be left behind.  How can employers take the time and resources to support this additional role they have been tasked with shouldering? 


Create a Culture of Learning!