Let’s Be Direct: What’s Your Employability Strategy?

two people shaking hands
Student Success
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Author: Corina Santoro

Derived from a post originally posted on WCET Frontiers

I had the opportunity to partner with WCET and talk about soft skills—what they are, why they matter, how they impact employability and why the current workplace demands them.

I’ve continued this conversation by speaking with educators across the country, often hearing similar feedback:

“We all know the primary reason students pursue education is to get a job or a better job—yet employers consistently tell us students graduate without the requisite skill set to be successful. When it comes to hiring, a whopping 92 percent of HR professionals tell us that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills1. And while 96 percent of Chief Academic Officers believe they’re doing a good job of preparing students to enter the workforce, only 11 percent of business leaders agree2. Like it or not, computers are changing our future jobs. Futurists—those who study the future of work—agree that the demand for soft skills will grow and increase in importance.3 So, what will be your employability strategy?”

  • What’s our affordability strategy?
  • How are we making education more accessible?
  • How are we helping students overcome life challenges that inhibit learning?
  • How are we improving students’ retention?

I’m energized by their questions and excited to hear about the new initiatives being discussed by fellow educators.

When it’s my turn to speak, I drop an employability bomb:

The response is always silence.

The bottom line is that education should be affordable and accessible—and we must do everything we can to eliminate a student’s learning barriers. But what’s the point in solving those problems if we fail to prepare students to enter the workforce successfully?

What remains is a broken system under attack—but working together, we can create solutions.

In a room full of passionate educators, the debate quickly ramps up. They discuss the current resources given to students that help them enter the workforce, such as resume building, interview preparation and leveraged relationships with local employers. Still, there is a general acknowledgment that changes need to be made.

At Cengage, we’re in the action phase. After nearly two years of research with employers, we’ve developed an Employability Skill Framework with entry-level skill sets desired by employers in all industries. This framework sits at the center of our Employability program, guiding all that we do. By integrating these skills into our courseware, we’re excited about the experiences for students ahead. Still, evolving courseware is an extensive process that doesn’t happen overnight.

We asked ourselves what we could do today

One solution is the Cengage Unlimited Career Center; it provides every student with the ability to explore career paths, learn the market-demanded baseline for employability skills and how to successfully transition into the workplace.

Collaborating with our institutional partners as they work within their existing structures to close the employability skill gap, we’ve started brainstorming alternative ways to reach students:

  • Integrating employability skill learning modules across curriculum programmatically
  • Boosting the effectiveness of early alert and retention systems by replacing labor-intensive workshops with digital lessons
  • Creating turnkey programs that can be implemented by departments lacking funding for robust career centers

The benefit behind the Cengage Employability Program is that everything is modular—it can be organically integrated to create an optimized student learning experience.

Together, we can provide students with affordable access to quality education that closes the employability skill gap and confidently prepares them for workplace success.

In the meantime, consider these questions:

  • How can you engage employers to validate and align on skills?
  • Where can you embed employability skills into your existing curriculum?
  • Where and how can you expose your students to employability skills outside of their courses?
  • Most importantly, what is your employability strategy?
Cengage, “The People Factor: Uniquely Human Skills in the Workplace,” 2018
Robot Ready? Labor Market Analysis Finds “Human+ Skills” in High Demand,” Strada Education Network, November 13, 2018