Employers Have Spoken: Ways for Higher Ed to Foster Career Success

Last updated on: August 26, 2021

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It’s true: Most educators and employers agree about which skills students should attain in college. In the report How College Contributes to Workforce Success, from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and Hanover Research, approximately 500 executives and hiring managers share their views of higher education and what they think an undergraduate liberal education should achieve.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.

Do Employers Think a College Degree Is “Worth It”?
Probably or definitely: 87%
Probably or definitely not: 13%

Benefits of a Liberal Education
AAC&U’s long-standing efforts to define “essential learning outcomes” for colleges and universities have long been supported by employers as important outcomes for success in “work, life, and citizenship.” AAC&U’s newest employer study adds even more evidence.

The Most Important Skills and Abilities for College Grads

Critical Thinking
Very or somewhat important: 95%
Not at all/not very important: 5%

Work Effectively in Teams
Very or somewhat important: 93%
Not at all/not very important: 7%

Apply Knowledge/Skills in Real-World Settings
Very or somewhat important: 92%
Not at all/not very important: 8%

Analyze and Interpret Data
Very or somewhat important: 91%
Not at all/not very important: 8%

Digital Literacy
Very or somewhat important: 91%
Not at all/not very important: 9%

Applied Learning Experiences Give Job Applicants an Edge

Most employers think students who learn by doing can do a lot more in the workplace. These active and applied learning experiences may convince 84 to 90 percent of employers to hire a recent college grad.

An internship or apprenticeship
Much or somewhat more likely to hire: 90%
No more likely: 10%

A work-study program or another form of employment during college
Much or somewhat more likely to hire: 90%
No more likely: 10%

A portfolio of work showcasing skills and integrating college experiences
Much or somewhat more likely to hire: 89%
No more likely: 11%

An experience that involved working in community settings with people from diverse backgrounds or cultures
Much or somewhat more likely to hire: 88%
No more likely: 12%

A global learning experience that included exposure to diverse experiences and perspectives and application of learning to their major and their own life
Much or somewhat more likely to hire: 84%
No more likely: 16%

How Employers See the Goals of an Undergraduate Education

It’s the million-dollar question: How do employers view college’s role in preparing graduates for career success? According to the survey, employers think a liberal education should focus on these goals:

Producing versatile students who can adapt to problems as they arise
Very or somewhat important: 94%
Not at all/not very important: 6%

Encouraging students to think for themselves
Very or somewhat important: 93%
Not at all/not very important: 6%

Adequately building technical skills for employment
Very or somewhat important: 92%
Not at all/not very important: 8%

Providing students with a well-rounded education
Very or somewhat important: 92%
Not at all/not very important: 8%

An emphasis on ‘non-technical skills’
(e.g. critical thinking)
Very or somewhat important: 89%
Not at all/not very important: 11%

Use This Data to Help Your Graduates Go Farther

The bottom line: Employers think higher ed offers a smart route to workplace success. That’s great news for universities. What’s more, there are ways to enhance liberal education programs and help more students go the distance in their careers and lives.

Download the full report to access additional insights to ensure your program delivers quality outcomes for learners. You can also explore the program planning solutions from Wiley Education Services. We’re here to help you put these insights into action.


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