Friday, May 06, 2011
Too Long for Tweets, Too Short for Posts
- I recently went through another roundtable with local employers, talking about our technical and workforce-oriented degrees. I could have cut-and-pasted from the discussions at PU ten years ago. They kept saying the same thing they said a decade ago in a different state: it’s the communication skills and the ability to see the big picture that count. I actually asked if they’d be willing to just hire the sharpest liberal arts grads and train them; most of them gave variations on “y’know, we used to do that...” Note to employers: do it again. We have some damn smart liberal arts grads with excellent communication skills, and they tend to be quick studies.
- We took The Dog to a doggie shrink earlier this week. I feel like I crossed some sort of cultural divide in even admitting that. The issue is that she attacks visitors in the house. The shrink basically came up with “some dogs are like that. Try this collar.” Thanks.
- Even after all these years, I’m still amazed at the number of people who say “listen” when they mean “obey.” It’s entirely possible to listen to an idea and disagree with it. “The administration didn’t listen. It didn’t do what we said.” In that passage, the second sentence offers no support for the first, unless you define ‘listen’ to mean ‘obey.’
- If I read one more story about the “higher education bubble” that fails to mention the unbelievable affordability of community colleges, or that takes Harvard’s tuition level as somehow normative...
- The Girl made the cover of the local newspaper last week. You can be as cynical an academic as you want; when you see your kid smiling brightly on the front page, it makes your day.
If your IT people can't give a short tutorial on simple strong passwords, fire them. [Hint: disenvoweled short phrases with special characters for spaces.] If you can't use strong passwords because your system will not accept more than 6 or 8 characters or exclude weak ones, replace it.
I'd say more, but my longer comments keep getting deleted.
Organizations don't work that way. No matter what kind of education and experience you have, you will need to learn the requirements of your institution, and your manager, and the needs of your co-workers. So much of what most desk jockeys do can absolutely be learned, but someone has to be willing to put in the time to train. I know everyone within academia and without is understaffed, so nobody wants to take that time, but what we are doing now is not working.
I've never figured out why the lie persists -- that is, what employers have to gain by pretending that they're interested in English majors when all they want is more MBAs.
Here's how you know the business world isn't interested in liberal arts graduates: they never give money to liberal arts programs. When was the last time you saw a rich donor's name over the Philosophy building, or a corporate grant for studying poetry, or even some CEO willing to part with five bucks to help out the hungry History major he passes in the street? Engineering programs, research labs, business schools, you bet. Ethnic Studies? Not so much.
They feed a line about wanting communication skills, critical thinking, and creativity, but then they go on hiring people just like themselves.
I know, bitter much? Well, old wounds fester.
Good luck with that. Time, attention and burning off a dog's energy will help in teaching them to accept others' visiting.
Industry wants smart literate people with good communications and interpersonal skills who also are Engineers, Technicians, Accountants, Machinists, Chemists and so on.
On the other hand, community colleges offer a wonderful opportunity for students to gain specific skills (business classes, computer classes, etc) while broadening their liberal arts skills (communication, critical thinking, etc). Most of our programs at Local Community College require students to take courses outside their vocational goal classes. My art history courses- an excellent value for your money if taught by real art historians, and not just the "art staff"- are filled with potential nurses, businessmen, computer experts, plumbers, auto mechanics, cosmetologists, etc. learning to write, learning to analyze, and learning ways of thinking that allow for creativity and constructive problem solving.
All at an affordable price. How win-win is that? Community colleges rock.
Of course, it is at least theoretically possible to integrate such tools into traditional classroom settings in the arts and sciences.
So employers are giving up years of productivity to avoid doing a few days of training. Impressive, in its own way.