More than 11,000 Employers, Faculty, Alumni, & Students Were Part of the Survey Examining 11 Critical Growth Areas for Students Today
Washington, DC – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today released two reports on the results of a comprehensive survey of employers, faculty, alumni, and students that explored the top employability skills preparedness gaps among college graduates. The two reports are designed to help provide universities with data-driven insights on employers’ needs that administrators and faculty could consider when changing or updating academic programs.
Led by administrators in colleges of agriculture, the APLU reports examined specific employability skills—the nontechnical skills used every day in the workforce to ensure the smooth operation of projects and offices. More than 11,000 employers, faculty, alumni, and students answered a survey consisting of two parts: 1) stakeholders were asked to rate the importance of 11 specific employability skills, how prepared students were in that skill, and rank what activities outside the classroom most contributed to learning these skills; and 2) answer four open-ended questions around how to better prepare students for navigating ambiguity, change, persistence, and conflict in the workplace.
From Academia to the Workforce: Critical Growth Areas for Students Today focuses on the quantitative data analysis, while From Academia to the Workforce: Navigating Persistence, Ambiguity, Change and Conflict in the Workplace is a qualitative analysis of the open-ended survey questions. Both reports and an executive summary are part of the APLU series on employability skills in agriculture and natural resources.
A 2011 APLU survey identified 42 employability skills that are most important to the four groups. Of those critical growth areas, 11 skills had the largest gaps between how respondents rated the importance of a skill versus how prepared they thought new graduates are in that skill. The other 31 skills were not chosen for further study because there was a smaller gap in what employers need and what universities are delivering—a sign that universities are on the right track. APLU fielded this latest survey in 2018-2019 through 31 participating universities and partner organizations to focus solely on the 11 skills where the preparedness gap was largest.
The 11 skills gaps the survey questions focused on were:
“Public universities are committed to providing students with the skills that will set them up for a lifetime of learning experiences. The employability skills identified in these reports are part of that mission,” said Wendy Fink, director of Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources, executive director of the BAA Academic Programs Section, and a co-principal investigator of the project and author of the reports. “It is notable that this research is being driven by these colleges so they can ensure their academic programs are better developing the skills needed in the workplace.”
Key findings from qualitative report, Navigating Persistence, Ambiguity, Change, and Conflict in the Workplace report include:
“Crucially, most faculty at the public universities in the study believe all these skills could be incorporated into academic programs and extracurricular activities,” said Pat Crawford, director, School of Design, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, South Dakota State University, and a co-principal investigator of the project and author of the reports. “We can teach these skills.”
While the study was primarily focused on stakeholders from colleges of agriculture and natural resources, the skills and insights from the responses are not limited to agricultural programs. Employers in the survey represented industries beyond those traditionally associated with agriculture and natural resources and the skills examined are applicable to virtually all fields.
Key findings from the quantitative study Critical Growth Areas for Students Today report include:
APLU’s Academic Programs Section (APS) commissioned the series of reports. APS is a section of the Board on Agriculture Assembly, a national organization of public university colleges of agriculture that is part of APLU. AgCareers.com, Agriculture Future of America, and the National FFA Organization helped create and distribute the survey. Additionally, an article on the survey results has been accepted for publication in the journal from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture and will be published soon.
For more information, visit www.aplu.org/employability-skills