Employers: Grads aren’t prepared for work

Most employers say college graduates aren’t prepared for work, reports a new survey. College students tend to be overconfident about their readiness.

“College for all” — or even job training for all — won’t revive the economy, argues a new book. We don’t lack skilled workers. We lack skilled jobs.

4 in 10 grads don’t need college degree at work

Four in 10 college graduates don’t need a degree to do their job.

Arts grads are in demand — as nannies

Affluent parents are hiring college graduates as nannies, writes Katy Waldman on Slate.

Fine arts diplomas are especially in-demand, because of the “level of creativity” they bring to childcare. (Whilst other nannies are gluing noodles onto construction paper, presumably, MFA grads can teach your kids how to make the latest Frank Gehry building out of play dough.) Parents also swoon for guardians who can scold their children in several languages, especially Mandarin Chinese.

The ultimate nanny has a master’s degree.

Is our college students learning?

A college degree is supposed to signify mastery of a discipline, but testing firms see a window of opportunity for measures of college learning to help graduates in the job market, reports Inside Higher Ed.

. . .  skills assessments are related to potential higher education “disruptions” like competency-based education or even digital badging. They offer portable ways for students to show what they know and what they can do. And in this case, they’re verified by testing giants.

“This is how competencies could become the currency of the land instead of the credit hour,” said Michelle Rhee-Weise, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think tank with a focus on education and health care.

(Rhee-Weise is no relation to the ex-D.C. schools chief.)

The Collegiate Learning Assessment is being upgraded this year to include a work readiness component and more student-level data.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) introduced two new electronic certificates for student learning, reports Inside Higher Ed. ACT Inc. offers WorkKeys skills assessment.

Americans spend over $460 billion on higher education every year, but what are college students learning?  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is trying to develop the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes  (AHELO) to assess college students’ learning, reports Ed Week. The AHELO would be a “direct evaluation of student performance at the global level…across diverse cultures, languages and different types of institutions.”

To be employable, study philosophy

Would-be journalists (and others) who want to be employable should avoid journalism programs and study philosophy, advises Shannon Rupp, a Canadian journalist, in Salon. She majored in political science and English, but also took philosophy classes that taught “something applicable to any and every job: clarity of thought.”

While “vague, trendy subjects” go out of fashion, philosophy stays relevant, writes Rupp. The University of Windsor is closing its Centre for Studies in Social Justice, possibly because “no one can actually define ‘social justice’.”

. . .  the importance of defining terms to ensure we all mean the same thing when we’re talking is one of those skills I picked up in philosophy.

I spent a semester defining ordinary things. Hats. Chairs. It’s harder than it looks. And I remember a classmate’s resistance to it. He kept ranting that it was stupid — everyone knows what a chair is! — before dropping out.

Of course, everyone only thinks she knows what a chair is. Or social justice, for that matter. Politicians, CEOs of questionable ethics, and all PR people count on exactly that. They will say something vague — I find the buzzwords du jour all seem to have some reference to “social” in them — and leave us to fill in the blanks with whatever pleases us.

Voila: we hear whatever we want and they get away with whatever they want.

Epistemology — the study of what we can know — teaches how to distinguish beliefs from facts, Rupp writes. Many people confuse the two.

The philosophy of science teaches about objectivity, which journalists often confuse with “being fair or denying personal bias.”

As newspapers began introducing advertorial copy and advertiser-driven sections, they retrained their staff to talk about “balance” instead of objectivity. As if printing opposing opinions somehow makes up for running half-truths.

What objectivity really means is to test for accuracy — regardless of what you suspect (or hope) might be true. In science they test knowledge by trying to poke holes in each other’s research. News reporters were taught a variation summed up by the cliché, “If someone tells you it’s raining, look out the window.”

The version I’ve heard is: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Teaching “critical thinking” (as opposed to uncritical thinking?) is all the rage these days. Should K-12 teachers study philosophy?

When work disappears

When work disappears for all but the well-educated elite, what happens to society?

Salary Surfer predicts future pay after two and five years for an associate degree or certificate in various fields for prospective California community college students.

4-year degree is ‘ticket to nowhere’

Underemployed four-year graduates are enrolling in two-year colleges to earn job credentials. A business graduate with $60,000 in student loans calls her bachelor’s degree “just like a ticket to nowhere.” She’s now training for a certificate in paralegal studies.

“Some college” is better than a high school diploma in the workforce. If “some” means a vocational certificate in a technical field, it can lead to higher pay than a non-technical bachelor’s degree.

Not all degrees are created equal

For today’s college graduates, “what you make depends on what you take,” advises the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. ”Not all degrees are created equal.” Engineering graduates start at $54,000, compared to $30,000 for arts, psychology and social work grads.

Nursing graduates have the lowest unemployment rate, Georgetown reports, but new RNs say it’s hard to find a job without experience.

Men at work

The U.S. Education Department’s annual Condition of Education report is out.

Educational attainment correlates with employment and women are more likely to earn college degrees. However, men are more likely to be employed at every age and education level.

Employment to population ratios, by age group, educational attainment, and sex: 2012

Figure 2. Employment to population ratios, by age group, educational attainment, and sex: 2012

Outstanding student loan debt more than tripled in nine years from $304 million in 2003 to $956 million in 2012.

Core standards: It’s not about the benjamins

Democratic state senators in Pennsylvania have come out against Common Core State Standards “without adequate state financial resources,” reports Ed Week.

It’s not about the benjamins, responds Marc Tucker on Ed Week‘s Top Performers blog. Some high-achieving countries spend substantially less per student than the U.S. ”Top performers . . . redesign their school finance systems” to provide more resources for hard-to-educate students.

When Florida first proposed to raise its standards years ago, some people objected on the grounds that high standards would hurt the poor and minorities, who would not be able to meet them.  The standards were raised and the students whose scores improved the most were poor and minority students.  When Massachusetts set out to raise their standards, the liberals objected that the poor and minority students would be hurt, because they would not be able to meet the standards.  And–you guessed it–when the standards were raised anyway, the students who made the greatest gains were the poor and minority students.

Years ago, he asked parents in a focus group about standards.  An African-American single mother living on welfare said her middle-school son was getting A’s for coloring in a coloring book. “The kids in the suburbs have to work really hard for their A’s,” she said. “When my child graduates, all he will be good for is working the checkout counter at the grocery store.  I want my child to have the same opportunities they have.  I want him to have to do as well in school as they have to do to earn an A.”

It will be very hard for schools with low-income and minority students to meet the new standards, Tucker concedes. Spending more won’t be enough.

We already spend more money on average than every industrialized country except Luxembourg and Norway.  We will have to do what the top-performers everywhere have done: radically change our school finance systems, academic standards, curriculum, instructional practices and tests and exams.  Not least important, we will have to make big changes in teacher compensation, the way we structure teachers’ careers, the standards for getting into teachers colleges, the curriculum in our teachers colleges, our teacher licensure standards and the way we support new teachers.

Rejecting high standards isn’t an option, Tucker argues. Employers will enforce the standards when they decide who to hire. Selective colleges will enforce the standards when they decide who to admit.