Close the Skills Gap Through Improved General Education Courses

In its latest Emerging Jobs Report, LinkedIn shares two takeaways that merit attention from educators.

First, opportunities related to basic business functions continue to surge.

AI may be on the rise, but it can’t replace the power of humans. Basic operational functions like Administrative Assistant, Assurance Staff and Sales Development Representative also landed spots on the Emerging Jobs list. And when looking at the fastest-growing roles in the country, nearly all of them are roles that have been steadily growing for years, including Software Engineer, Account Executive, and Recruiter.

In a related note, the report’s authors say that the largest skills gaps are in soft or essential skills.

Despite technical roles making a strong showing on this year’s Emerging Jobs list, soft skills – like oral communication, leadership and time management – make up nearly half the list of skills with the largest skills gaps. While hard skills are important, it remains imperative for professionals to maintain their arsenal of soft skills in this rapidly changing jobs landscape because those that have them, have a leg up.

The biggest skills gap? Oral communication

Oral Communication remains the skill group with the biggest shortage in nearly every city across the country. What’s more, core technical skills like social media, graphic design and web development are consistently in demand as every organization – no matter how big or small – needs a digital presence to survive. We also found that people with these skills are hired at faster rates than people without these skills.

While some may view this report, and others like it, as a call for new specializations and degree programs, it also sends a clear message about the foundational skills and preparation we must provide to promote professional success. I believe the best way to accomplish this is through the careful design and redesign of our general education courses.

More specifically, we should be thinking about how to teach and reinforce the development of the following skills into each of our core courses.

1. Communication skills — This includes both written and oral communication, integrated meaningfully into the context of each subject area.

2. Critical thinking — Our core courses should prepare students to think through and address a diverse array of real-world problems within the context of each subject area.

3. Computational thinking — To promote professional success, we must also introduce mathematical concepts, quantitative and functional analysis, and real-world modeling within the context of each subject area

4. Self-evaluation — Finally, our general education courses should promote reflection and help students develop the much-needed skill of accurate self-evaluation.

To integrate these skills into our general education courses, we need to move beyond the “what” and into the “why.” We must transition away from our narrow focus on the specific information covered in each general education course toward a broader skills-based approach that emphasizes the contextualization of essential, real-world skills within the information presented in our courses.

Rob Reynolds, Ph.D.
Executive Director

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