|The State of American Jobs|
The following digest reviews the article “The State of American Jobs: How the shifting economic landscape is reshaping work and society and affecting the way people think about the skills and training they need to get ahead” by the Pew Research Center. The full article can be viewed at: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/10/06/the-state-of-american-jobs/ and consists of 94 pages of in-depth research and analysis. The article summary below provides a brief overview of the most prominent trends.
Between May and June 2016, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey among 5,006 U.S. adults (employed and unemployed) showcasing various trends in Americans’ perceptions of today’s and future job and education climates. One central theme identifies Americans’ need for consistent skill-building training to remain competitive in the workforce. A large majority (87%) of current workers believe additional training and skill development are essential or important to keep up with changes in the workforce. When asked about the responsibility associated with training these workers, 72% said “a lot” of the responsibility comes from the individual themselves, followed by public K-12 education (60%), colleges and universities (52%), and employers (49%). These same individuals point to formal higher education, compared to on-the-job training and certificate programs, as the best way to continue to gain the training they need regardless of current educational attainment. According to the Americans surveyed, the skills needed to be successful in today’s workforce include, “having a detailed understanding of how to use computer technology, being able to work with people from many different backgrounds, and training in writing and communication.” However, half of employed adults identified that having interpersonal skills, such as patience, compassion, and getting along with others, are extremely important to do their job, followed by critical thinking (46%), and good written and spoken communication (45%). This highlights a disconnect between what Americans view as today’s “cutting-edge job skills” and the skills they need currently in order to do their job.
Implications for Career Services Professionals:
As more individuals are seeking higher education to gain additional skills, are career services centers addressing the skills needed to be successful in the workplace? This brings into light the purpose and value of a college education, which is also highlighted in the article, but briefly discussed here. A little less than half (49%) of two- and four-year degree graduates think that their degree was very useful in providing useful job-related skills and knowledge. While this is a view of their full experience, the 2016 NACE Professional Standards for College and University Career Services states that “career services should help students and other designated clients to prepare to find suitable employment by developing job-search skills…” However, when asked about acquiring interpersonal and critical thinking skills, workers said they acquired these through work experience (35%, 46%) and life experience (38%, 18%). Other than providing resources for students to gain work and life experience, how can career services professionals facilitate the development of interpersonal and critical thinking skills?
Implications for Recruiting Professionals and Employers:
Because many individuals report work experience as a common way to gain important skills, employers could place an additional emphasis on providing continual feedback when working with college students through internship or part-time employment. This could be done through intentional feedback from a supervisor or facilitating informational feedback between peers. Additionally, providing formal interactive development of working in diverse teams or scenario-based decision-making could increase a student’s development in interpersonal and critical thinking skills. Providing some formal interactive professional development for all workers could also increase an employee’s sense of identity from their job, of which only half (51%) of employed Americans would say now.