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Firms often complain about the difficulty of finding recent college alumni who have adequate training for

available jobs. With this issue in mind, we posed the following question to The Experts: Companies often complain they aren't getting graduates with the skills they need. Why is that and what should be done about it? This discussion relates to a recent Journal Report article on training programs that help students with autism land jobs and formed the basis of a discussion on The Experts blog on Oct. 9.

Students: Closing the Skills Gap Has to Begin With You BOB KERREY : There are three things that need to happen to get companies the skilled graduates that they need. The first is to recognize that this problem of employers not finding graduates with the right skills is more likely to solve itself from the bottom up rather than yielding to new demands from the top. The college choices of millions of students are going to be affected by the availability of new information about which degrees and institutions are most successful in preparing graduates for employment. Faculty and university administrators who want their students to succeed, as well as businesses that are making it increasingly clear what they need, are already responding to this challenge. Second, we must insist that community colleges, which are on the front lines of workforce development, use available research to ensure that their remedial education efforts are directed at helping students become workforce ready. Regional and state regulators must make it easier for new entrantsespecially those institutions that are using research to make clear what cognitive skills employers need and what technologies will make it easier for students to gain access to those skills. Third, individual students should understand that they bear a significant responsibility for understanding what employers want. The best way to get that understanding is on-the-job training. Any student who does not work while they are going to school, or who waits until their last semester to begin to plan for life after college, is in for a rude awakening. Blaming institutions, faculty or political leaders for the failure of a student who simply doesn't make the effort necessary to be a valuable employee is not helping that student. Sometimes the best way to help someone is to make certain they understand that there always has and always will be a direct correlation between effort and results. Bob Kerrey is a former U.S. senator, governor of Nebraska and president of The New School. He is currently the executive chairman of the Minerva Institute.

What's So Bad About Vocational Education? ROSABETH MOSS KANTER : There is a mismatch in the U.S. between open jobs and skills. Millions of unfilled jobs require more than a high-school diploma but not a college degreeso-called middle skill jobs, many of which are well-paid (lab technicians, advanced manufacturing specialists, computer programmers). Why? In the U.S. we have never valued "vocational education" that would prepare people from populations needing jobs (like inner-city kids) for good jobs. That means we must reinvent high school, or add apprenticeships at every step. Second, employers haven't been involved enough. Community colleges need vast improvement. Business partnerships with community colleges to create courses that create a jobready workforce would improve the two-year colleges and produce a job-ready workforce. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (@RosabethKanter) holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle professorship at Harvard Business School, where she specializes in strategy, innovation and leadership for change.

Our College Graduates Can't Write! BRUCE NOLOP : Our graduates lack writing skills. While adept at crafting bullet points, they often have difficulty writing in declarative sentences and complete paragraphsthus impeding the effectiveness of their business communications, including memos, letters, and technical reports. A 2004 Conference Board survey of 120 corporations in the Business Roundtable concluded that most companies take written communications into consideration when making their hiring and promotion decisions and implied that many current or prospective employees lack the requisite skills. This conclusion was reinforced by a 2006 Conference Board survey of 431 human resource professionals, which cited writing skills as one of the biggest gaps in workplace readiness. Recent graduates also frequently commit basic grammatical errors, such as using an improper pronoun (e.g. "between you and I") selecting the wrong homonym (e.g. "compliment versus complement") or employing incorrect diction (e.g. "appraise versus apprise"). Not coincidentally, these kinds of errors are difficult to catch with spell-check. We can posit several hypotheses for the deficiencies: Students do not read very much in their leisure time. They spend more time playing videogames and watching TV. Their skills are eroded by texting and social media formats. Their communication habits are reinforced by peer groups.

For some students, English is not their native language. However, I believe the root cause of the problem is that our schools are not placing sufficient emphasis on writing and grammar. We need to change our priorities. In particular, we should reinstate or increase our use of traditional learning methods, such as diagraming sentences, reading classic books, conducting vocabulary drills, writing essays, and preparing research papers, in addition to offering specialized courses in business communications. Bruce Nolop is the former chief financial officer of Pitney Bowes Inc. and E*Trade Financial Corp.

How High School and College Are Failing Our Economy (and Students) JON ERICKSON : The problem starts with learning standards that are too often not aligned with college and career needs and the reality that many students are moving from grade to grade without meeting even those misaligned standards. Our data have shown for years that an alarming number of students graduate from high school without the skills they need to succeed at the next level. Encouragingly, many initiatives, such as the Common Core State Standards, are already under way to help address this problem. But just as elementary- and secondary-school learning standards are not well aligned with college expectations, neither are college curricula fully aligned with workforce needs. ACT released a study earlier this year that revealed a skills gap for highly educated individuals considering jobs requiring high levels of education. Postsecondary institutions and employers must work together to improve this alignment, so colleges are teaching students the skills they will need to succeed in business and industry. In contrast, our research found no significant skills gap for individuals with midlevel educations (some postsecondary education, but not a four-year degree) preparing for jobs that require midlevel skills. Community colleges are doing a good job of preparing individuals to succeed in mid-skilled professions; we simply need to get more students interested in those professions. To do so, we must improve advising practices, helping students identify their interests at earlier ages so they can set great goals and make effective plans to meet them. In addition to instruction, we need to align our assessments to strong standards, and for those who meet the standards, provide credentials that also have value and meaning to employers. Finally, we need to acknowledge the important role "soft skills" have in career success, and develop systems and measures that encourage their attainment. Jon Erickson is president, Education and Career Solutions for ACT, overseeing the nonprofit organization's kindergarten through career continuum of assessment


What's Wrong With College? Pretty Much Everything. ROBERT HOWELL : Unfortunately, many undergraduate, liberal arts institutions' (and even, often, graduate study) programs are often ill-structured and illfocused. Everyone should read the recent study "What Does Bowdoin Teach?" which is an in-depth study of the changes and current education offerings, using Bowdoin College as an example, of what has transpired over the past 40 years in leading liberal arts institutions of higher education. Students are no longer required to take a set of "core" courses, but rather can pick and choose a mishmash of courses offered by, and in the interest of, the faculty. Grade escalation has resulted in a marked reduction in expectations and academic rigor. Courses in mathematics and science are considered too hard; engineering studies considered way too hard. The emphasis on faculty research and "refereed" publications as the basis for promotion and tenure has resulted in faculty focusing on their own, oftentimes, narrow areas of interest, which become the basis for their course offerings. Teaching takes a back seat to the research and writing; teaching fundamental literary and mathematical skills is often ignored completely. It is little wonder that companies are discouraged by the graduates they see coming into their firms who can neither write well nor do simple calculations. It will take real academic leadership to reverse the shift in higher education that has occurred in the past 40 years. Institutions should start by thinking of their students as their reason for being. What do they need to prepare for a successful (however defined) life. The return to a core set of learningliterature, mathematics, science, philosophyneeds to be re-established. The balance between teaching and research/publications needs to shift back toward teaching. Classroom rigor and the expectations for the students' progress needs to be markedly raised. The collegeage years are critical to the future economic success of the individual student and the overall economy. The continued erosion of academic rigor and excellence in our colleges and universities will rob students of their future and undermine the longterm success of the economy. Robert A. Howell is the David T. McLaughlin, D'54, T'55, distinguished visiting professor of Business Administration, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and senior partner at Howell Group LLC.

The World Has Changed Since the Industrial Revolution, But Universities Have Not KENNETH FREEMAN : Higher education has its roots in the industrial revolution and prepares young people for a world that no longer exists. Traditional universities were designed to produce many "copies" of certain types of peopleteachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.who, after "charging" their batteries with knowledge, would staff specific positions of industrial societies and would remain there throughout their careers.

Today's world is very different. As technology develops ever more rapidly, any given body of "knowledge" has an increasingly shorter life span. Information technology automates more and more professions, destroying traditional jobs in entire industries. Success today relies heavily on individual flexibility and creativity. The new world rewards diversity, not uniformity. And being different, apart from possessing hard knowledge, requires "soft skills" and personality traits that are not taught in most of today's universities: social intelligence, passion, curiosity, optimism and, especially, common sense. Companies can make an impact. Establish partnerships with universities to help prepare graduates for the workplace. The traditional heavily researched historical case studies that are at the heart of many business schools syllabi must evolve to include real time "live" dialogue on real business issues both inside the classroom with company executives, and outside the classroom through consulting assignments, research projects, case competitions and internships. Kenneth W. Freeman is the Allen Questrom professor and dean of Boston University School of Management.

Don't Blame Students for the Jobs-Skills Mismatch ERIC SPIEGEL: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that although nearly 12 million U.S. workers are unemployed, businesses report nearly four million open jobsjobs that cannot be filled by previously displaced workers because of gaps in skills. There is clearly a mismatch between the education and skills that many Americans have and what employers need. At a time when American industry is struggling to fill these open positions, it is common to say that we have a skills gap. But in truth, it's not just a skills gapit's a training gap. If we want to fix this, we need to put the onus on those who train, rather than those who need to be trained. A recent OECD study that evaluated work-based skills taught in schools in 29 countries found that the U.S. ranks dead last. Wharton School Prof. Peter Cappelli found that in 1979, young U.S. workers received an average of 2.5 weeks of training per year. By 1995, studies found that the average company offered just under 11 hours per year. By 2011, Accenture found that only 21% of all U.S. employees had received any employer-provided training in the past five years. In other words, 80% of today's workforce is working jobs with little to no instruction since before the iPhone was invented! In order to ensure that students graduate with the skills needed for the jobs that exist, companies need to work with the education system, government and labor. These public-private partnerships are critical because they allow for the marriage of supply and demand. Businesses can communicate their immediate and anticipated needs so that educational institutions can develop programs to train students for the necessary skills. At Siemens, we are bringing the centuries-old concept of apprenticeships, based on the German model, to America. These apprentices are

paid to work while in school, receive a diploma and a skills certificate, and upon completion a job that can lead to a long-term career. This is one way to ensure that workers are trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Eric Spiegel (@ericspiegel) is the president and CEO of Siemens USA and the author of the 2009 book "Energy Shift: Game-changing Options for Fueling the Future."

Education Isn't Just About Churning Out 'Skilled' Employees GIANPIERO PETRIGLIERI : There is so much revealing ambiguity in the question The Wall Street Journal posed to us leadership Experts today (see above) that it is worth pondering it for a moment. It is not quite clear what "why is that" refers to. Why do companies often (and publicly) complain that they can't get skillful graduates? Or why can't they get them? And who is the second "they"? Are graduates lacking the skills that companies need? Or are they lacking the skills they need themselves? I'm not being picky. I'm being provocative. I suspect most casual readers, like me at first, will go through such a question without picking up any ambiguity at all. The reason is that we have become accustomed to assuming that corporate recruiters are the best judges of the outcomes of education, and that what individuals need from education is acquiring the skills to make them useful and efficient in corporate jobs. That is a problem. There can be little doubt that one of the main functions of education is to support the economy by churning out skillful employees. That is not, however, its only function. The others are supporting the culture it is embedded in by churning out responsible citizenswho are not all, only, or always going to hold corporate jobsand supporting individual students by liberating their imagination and accelerating their development. In short, a good educationespecially the kind required to develop leaders encompasses training, socialization and emancipation. To reduce it to training in the skills that companies need is to subordinate educationto ask it to put aside the effort to raise leaders for the future and focus on making better followers for the present. There is more value, in my opinion, in restoring and celebrating the ambiguity. That will allow us to consider not only if the skills corporations and individuals need, and those education equips graduates with, overlap enoughbut also what discrepancies may be necessary to help our companies, communities and ourselves thrive.

Gianpiero Petriglieri (@gpetriglieri) is associate professor of organizational behavior at Insead, where he directs the Management Acceleration Program for emerging leaders

Corporate Recruiters: Stop Your Short-Term Thinking LEE NEWMAN : Companies should place more emphasis on assessing behaviors. What skills are companies looking for when they hire? I think there are two types of skills that need to be considered, but many companies focus too much on just one. With the trend toward job disaggregation and specialization, corporate recruiters are looking for individuals who come with well-developed, role-specific skills already in place. And rightly so. Don't we all want our new hires to add value from Day 1 and require minimal training? Certainly, but there is a short-term orientation to this thinking. Specialized skills and expertise are critical for success in the early stages of a career, but behavioral skills are important not only from the beginning but ever more so as a career progresses. For example, research shows that self-control (aka self-discipline or willpower) is a strong predictor of success and some studies have even found this behavioral skill more predictive than IQ. In my opinion, more companies need to formalize the inclusion of behavioral criteria such as self-awareness, mindfulness, self-control and empathy in the hiring process and ensure that these criteria are specific and assessable and not generic concepts such as "being a team player." Educators should emphasize the "being able." While companies can achieve better hiring results by striking a better balance between specialized expertise and behavioral skills, educational institutions need to do their part to produce students who have learned and practiced critical leadership behaviors while in school. Four years at university or a year in graduate school should serve as a transformational laboratory in which students can practice professional skills such as active listening, mindfulness, cooperative competition, and verbal and nonverbal communication. Yet, most schools are still too focused on their traditional mission of imparting knowledge. This needs to change, and it isbut too slowly. Companies need graduates who have accumulated more than just knowledge and who have learned not only about best practices in workplace behaviors, but also who are able to carry out these behaviors in the moments that matter on the job. Lee Newman (@NewmanLee) is dean of Social & Behavioral Sciences at IE University and dean of Innovation and Behavior at IE Business School in Madrid. His work focuses on applying behavioral science to business and leadership.