GREENFIELD — What skills and knowledge do Pioneer Valley employers look for in their recent hires? That was the focus of a spring 2016 survey conducted by Greenfield Community College (GCC). More than 125 businesses, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, and schools weighed in on the college-learning outcomes they value the most.
The survey, modeled after a national study conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Assoc. of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), was sent to Pioneer Valley employers on the member lists of the Franklin County, Greater Northampton, and Amherst Area chambers of commerce. It presented 17 distinct skill and knowledge areas and asked respondents to indicate how important it is that the new college graduates they employ exhibit proficiency in each.
Among the results, at least four out of five respondents said they want new hires to have the ability to effectively communicate orally, ethical judgment and decision making, the ability to work effectively with others in teams, the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings, and critical-thinking and analytical-reasoning skills. Employers, both large and small, report placing high value on these skills when hiring recent college graduates.
Recently, GCC students participated in the national Community College Survey of Student Engagement and were asked how much their experience at the college has contributed to their knowledge, skills, and personal development in a number of areas similar to those on the employer survey. A majority of respondents indicated that their time at GCC has contributed “quite a bit” or “very much” to their abilities to write and speak clearly and effectively, think critically and analytically, and work effectively with others.
Marie Breheny, GCC’s director of Assessment, noted that “the findings from this local survey of Pioneer Valley employers were very similar to those obtained through the AAC&U’s larger effort. The ongoing national debate about the purpose of a college education is often presented in terms of conflicting viewpoints, with some believing that college is primarily for the development of a person and others believing that it is primarily to get a job. Following from that argument are questions about the value of various courses of study. The results from these surveys show no such conflict, as the outcomes from a broad education that that contribute to the development of a well-rounded individual are also highly valued by employers. In short, a liberal-arts education that fosters communication, ethics, critical thinking, teamwork, and the application of knowledge to real-world settings prepares students for success in employment and success in life.”
Added GCC President Bob Pura, “Greenfield Community College thanks employers in the Pioneer Valley for their participation in this effort. Input such as this helps the college understand how issues in higher education that garner national attention play out at the local level. GCC will use this information to inform its programming and planning so as to best serve students while being responsive to the needs of area employers and the community.”