Education and Employment: Are We Doing Enough?

Earlier this week I was contacted by Jim Gilchrist, President of CAES – Career Advancement Employment Services who shared a very interesting report with me published by McKinsey and Company entitled Education and Employment.  The premise of the report is that there is a disconnect between employers, graduates, and educators. Beyond technical capability, new graduates lack the “soft skills” that many employers desire, and educators are failing to address this issue due to the lack of focus on employment preparation. It suggests that, unless educators make changes to help supply what many students really want – jobs, they could be seeing even more declining enrollment.  Hmmm . . .

The article is a very interesting read, and from an educator’s point of view it does make me question how we prepare our students to enter the workforce.  As teachers we are responsible for all kinds of learning. We provide each individual student with a variety of ways to learn the curriculum, by matching what we teach with how they learn. We promote critical thinking and problem solving.  Model good citizenship and build character.  Teachers foster an environment of collaborative learning, and provide students with opportunities to extend their thinking beyond the walls of the classroom.  And although all of these skills contribute a student’s success in the job market, according to McKinsey and Company, it’s not enough.

This is not the first time I have read an article or discussed the disconnect between employers, graduates, and educators. Just now I googled “Are graduates prepared to enter the workforce?” and after taking some time to read through page after page of reports with titles like “The Ill-Prepared Workforce”, and “Canada’s Crisis in Advanced Skills”,  it’s time to start making some changes.

But this isn’t just a job for my post-secondary colleagues as many of the articles suggest. Elementary and secondary educators also have a responsibility to lay the foundation so students are prepared to build upon those skills by the time they reach college or university. So where do we begin? 
Well, connecting with experts from the Digital Human Library is a good place to start.  By providing students with opportunities to connect with experts in a wide range of fields, students learn about the variety of job opportunities that await them upon graduation. These experiences will help students make more informed decisions about the kinds of jobs that might interest them in the future.

Digital Human Library connections also give students the opportunity to ask dHL experts questions, not only about what they are learning in the classroom, but about how that learning is applied in the workplace. At the secondary level virtual visits with dHL members could specifically focus on those kinds of “soft skills” students will need in order to be successful.

And this is where CAES has also offered their help.  Here is an organization committed to reducing the gap between graduates and employers by reaching out to students and adapting some of their programs to address specific needs; such as helping new graduates to understand and develop their “soft skills” in order to better prepare them for employment and to more effectively present themselves to employers.  If there is an opportunity to bring the programs offered by CAES to teachers and students via the Digital Human Library, we would have access to even more experts who are trained to help our students succeed.  Hmmm . . .

I hope you will consider initiating these conversations between dHL experts and your students. It’s through these collaborations that students will begin to make connections between what they are learning in the classroom and how it really applies in the world of work, and we are providing our students with opportunities to develop those “soft skills” they seem to be lacking in today’s job market.
Let’s face it, videoconferencing is cool.  The kids love it.  And teachers get some free PD from the experts.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Oh, and the best part is, we are providing our students with the skills they need now, to be successful in the future.

Leigh Cassell
Elementary Teacher, AMDSB
Founder of the Digital Human Library

This post is also available in: Français (French)