Imagine that: Academic programs that actually teach in-demand career skills.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jeff Hoover
Today’s job market is more competitive than ever, with today’s employers looking to hire the most qualified candidates. They expect no less from college graduates, who must be prepared to enter the workforce with the right skills to help organizations meet their toughest challenges.
However, higher education as a whole has struggled to keep up with exactly which skillsets are in demand as students join their respective fields. The rapid adoption of new innovations, automation and new ways of performing job functions have made it difficult to stay on top of the latest nuanced skillsets needed for particular careers – even those with long established histories like teaching or accounting.
“We are opening up new possibilities for students to test the waters in their major of study so they can make more informed and meaningful choices about their post-graduate careers.”
Pairing this challenge with the fact that many potential and current college students are limited in their knowledge of which majors correspond with applicable jobs that are available, it’s clear that we as institutions must increase our efforts to align and communicate skills learned in degree programs with the demands of the real job market for today and beyond.
It’s No Secret What Students Go Through
It’s no secret that many students change their intended major within their first three semesters due to misunderstood first impressions. By better communicating skillsets learned with employment opportunities, prospective and current students will better understand the degree options Lancaster Bible College and Capital Seminary and Graduate School (LBC) has to offer.
In my nearly two decades working at LBC, a private co-educational Bible college and seminary serving approximately 2500 students annually, I’ve seen the evolution of how students engage in their college experience. This includes traditional, accelerated and online learning paths. Regardless of whether students are on campus or logging into classes from afar, in my experience, they are universally eager to learn more about which employment options are a good fit for their major as well as which careers are in high demand. In fact, many are surprised that their degree can be applied to a wider set of job possibilities and that they are qualified to apply for them.
For example, a Communication major can be applied beyond a job as a writer or reporter into careers in digital business communications, radio, production and social media, to name a few.
Personalized Career Help with Real Data
To ensure our institution is delivering academic programs that teach in-demand career skills and foster strong graduation rates, LBC recently launched a personalized careers initiative that transforms student outcomes in preparing them for the real job world. Also, as a faith-based institution, this initiative supports our goals in helping students identify and pursue their passions in work and service as they continue to grow in their individual relationships with God.
To support this new initiative, our institution implemented Campus Management’s cloud-based workforce analytics tool, CampusNexus Occupation Insight, which enables students, advisors and faculty to be guided by up-to-date workforce data all throughout a student’s time spent at our institution.
LBC first launched the analytics tool for our Business Administration undergraduate degree program, serving over 200 students. They are already benefitting from valuable career insights, as advisors have used the tool to identify in-demand skills, compare those with learning outcomes and objectives, and then validate the quality of our current programs as well as make positive adjustments to our Business Administration degree coursework.
One professor even pulls up career data on the first day of classes to show students real job options and corresponding salaries. The students were inspired and could more concretely see themselves fulfilling such a role one day.
Learning Aligned to Skills in Demand
Additionally, we were recently in the process of launching two new programs within the Business Administration undergraduate program for Marketing and Accounting. With the help of Occupation Insight, we were able to proactively evaluate the skills that are in demand for both industry areas. These insights proved critical in helping us develop and launch each of the programs with specific learning outcomes in mind. Through our initiative, we are also able to validate and align our coursework for students pursuing undergraduate degrees in Communications, Criminal Justice and Biblical Studies.
Our new initiative is also helping students assess which internships would be best to pursue to learning practical experience in their planned degrees of study. Using technology to identify all potential career roles for a particular student based on their degree-focused skillsets, advisors can now help students identify internship opportunities via their major’s department.
Strong, Contributing Members
We are opening up new possibilities for students to test the waters in their major of study so they can make more informed and meaningful choices about their post-graduate careers.
As we continue to expand this program, we look forward to extending the “tree branch” effect in helping future and current students see more prospects for themselves as strong candidates for multiple types of jobs after graduation.
Opening their eyes to identifying and synthesizing this information based on real-world job market data is simply invaluable—it has allowed us to invest deeper in our students by helping them understand their identity in Christ and their future as contributing members of the global economy and workforce.
Jeff Hoover is Process Engineer at Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary and Graduate School.