Posted on: February 17, 2021

What employers want from college graduates

What employers want from college graduates

Fairfax University of America distinguishes itself from the rest of higher education because of its Corporate Advisory Council, a group of dozens of major business and industry leaders who shape our curriculum and student experience.

We rely on our CAC, as they’re known around our campus, to help us remain abreast of the needs of business communities. We are able to nimbly modify our approaches and learning outcomes to ensure our students are fully prepared to be immediately productive in the business world. It keeps us from the all-too-common problem universities have of being in a bubble where curricula is designed based on what other institutions are doing, which for undergraduate education is usually based on preparing students for graduate school as opposed to careers.

And they’re able to help us answer one of the most important questions for higher education: What is it that the business world wants and even needs from the next generation of college students?

We posed this question to our Council in relation to the relative importance of 14 power skills. These were chosen by the FXUA Curriculum and Instructional Design team and are excerpted from our signature Learning to Be curriculum.

We had them rate the skills on a scale of 1-3:

  1. Not important
  2. Somewhat important
  3. Absolutely necessary for their business

See the table, which listed our findings in order from highest average rating to the lowest.

Power SkillAvg. Rating
Critical Thinking2.84
Problem-Solving2.84
Decision-Making2.72
Communication2.72
Resilience2.60
Building and Managing Relationships2.56
Emotional Intelligence2.52
Empathy2.52
Creativity2.44
Developing & Sustaining a Growth Mindset2.44
Organizational Agility2.32
Conflict Resolution2.20
Cultural Awareness2.20
Awareness of Cognitive Bias2.08

Now what’s to be done with these findings? See, another problem that many universities face is receiving data like this but following it up with no action.

That’s just now how we operate at FXUA. Our Curriculum and Instructional Design team is preparing separate, micro-credential programs for the top eight competencies. These will be official certifications for employers to see that the graduate has specifically mastered this skill.

Listening to leaders isn’t just about discovering new ideas but ensuring where we’re doing well. Note that these respondents come from all kinds of different business environments, from human resources and finance to tech and the military. That means these fourteen skills we identified were found to be, at a minimum, relevant to a variety of corporate environments. That realization allows FXUA to feel more confident in its existing programs and in designing new ones.

This isn’t meant to be some grand showcase of secret knowledge but a testament to the power universities can have by seeking direct feedback from the employing community. We’re thankful to our council members because their input helps us make sure we truly are preparing our students to secure meaningful employment after graduation, rather than join thousands of underemployed degree holders who were let down by their alma maters.

About Zeeshan Malik

Zeeshan MalikZeeshan Malik is the Director of Marketing at the Fairfax University of America. His background includes working across 41 countries to launch international campuses abroad, public-private partnerships between top tier universities and education management firms, and consult for universities and independent organizations in their startup phase.
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