Survey finds employers wanting graduates with a broad focus

Matthew Hart

College students concerned about employment opportunities after graduation may want to consider a liberal arts education that encompasses a broad range of skills and knowledge.

A survey, released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities on April 10, finds employers believe colleges and universities are not doing a good job of preparing graduates for successful careers and indicates recent college graduates should have more than just field-specific knowledge and skills.

In the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact — also released last Wednesday — 160 employers and 107 college presidents agreed to help make the importance of 21st century liberal arts education understood by the public and pledged to promote students access to this type of education.

Gary Susswein, a University spokesman, said UT is not a member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“Despite its very positive objectives, UT Austin is actually not a member of this organization, so we are not involved in this compact,” Susswien said. “Our member organization is American Association of Universities.”

Barry Toiv, spokesman for American Association of Universities, said in the general sense, it is a good idea for students to gain skills that can serve them for a lifetime.

“We agree that what’s most important and what employers really want is for undergraduates to have a broad liberal arts education that teaches them how to learn for a lifetime, and obviously there are certain skills that go with that,” Toiv said. “It’s a good idea for students to gain the kinds of skills that can serve them for a lifetime. It makes them better workers and citizens, and it makes them better members of their communities.”

According to Toiv, the association’s member universities offer a variety of degrees. 

Despite the survey’s findings, Toiv said degrees aimed at specific professions should not be off limits.

“We aren’t saying that those aren’t appropriate degrees,” Toiv said. “The point is that ideally, regardless of the degree that a student gets at one of our universities, the hope is that they emerge those broader skills that enable them to put that degree to the best use.”

UT spokeswoman Karen Adler said UT Austin has the resources available to provide the best resources for students who want a broad-based liberal arts education and an introduction to the hard sciences or professions.

“The University of Texas at Austin and all of our UT institutions are continually working to make sure our students graduate with marketable and real-world skills,” Adler said. “In today’s world, that means a student’s education needs to cover a wide spectrum so that they acquire both broad and specific knowledge and skills.”