College Curriculum Competencies and Skills Former Students Found Essential to Their Careers

Article excerpt

In this paper, I examine college curriculum competencies and skills acquired in college education that former students report as most essential to improve their career experiences. Multivariate analysis indicates that despite the technological changes occurring in places of work, skills in oral communication, written communication, public speaking, motivating and managing others, and effective group leadership are most essential for career improvement. Other skills former students found essential for career development are skill in finance and cost management, negotiating employees/employer differences, and handling consumer/customer relations.

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INTRODUCTION

Innovation in technology, changes in the business world, globalization, and the increasing diversity of the workforce may be altering the kinds of college competencies and general skills universities and colleges are being called to deliver. Further, college graduates typically find themselves in the center of economic, political, and social realities that define our complex global world. Thus, education at all institutions (universities and community colleges) must address the diverse demands placed on graduates because competencies and skills needed for effective functioning in a global society and in workplaces may be changing. The nature of these changes are such that training in higher institutions must be extended beyond the narrowly focused, job-specific technical training orientation that has typified many programs at many universities. If the educational system is to effectively prepare graduates to fill job requirements in the 21st century, curricula must change to reflect the dynamic needs of modem industries in the information age.

The purpose of this paper is to examine college curriculum competencies and skills former students report as most essential to their career development. My assumption is that knowledge about general educational competencies and skills former students found essential to their careers would be useful to college faculty and policy makers who represent accrediting associations for constructing effective curricula. Further, the more that is known about general educational competencies and skills businesses expect their new employees to have, and the more they are taken into account in curriculum development and reform, the more competitive college graduates will be in the labor market of the future.

METHOD

Data for this analysis are from a study of former students who graduated from Southern Land-Grant Universities. The Research Project (Occupational Career Paths of Former Students in Southern Land-Grant Universities) examined the actual labor market experiences of former students after graduation. Using the Total Design Method (Dillman 1978) a questionnaire was sent to all former students located. The survey focused on former students' background information, educational attainment, career mobility, college curriculum competencies and skills, opinions about agricultural careers and personal characteristics. The questionnaire with an explanatory cover letter and return stamped envelope, were sent to former students from Alabama A & M University, Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee, Tuskegee University, and Auburn University. Out of the 409 former students relocated, 291 from Auburn University and University of Tennessee (the 1862 Land-Grant Universities in the sample) returned complete questionnaires. The current analysis focuses on these 291 former students from the two traditional (1862) white land-grant universities.

Measures

General college curriculum competencies are skills obtained from a wide variety of courses. Former students were asked to rate 15 action competencies faculty often identify as important aspects of college education with respect to how much the competencies are needed in their occupations and careers. The question asked was: "To improve your own career experiences, how would you rate the extent to which you needed or did not need to acquire the following competencies and skills in your college education? …