The career landscape for students graduating college has been rapidly changing year over year. Today, students are learning alongside artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. New roles focused on data are becoming the most highly sought after jobs after graduation — both for new grads and for employers.
Some of the fastest growing first jobs for graduates include:
- Web Designer
- Database Developer
- Software Engineer
- Investment Banking Analyst
- UX Designer
- Research Analyst
- Product Manager
Companies are eager to hire grads with skills like cloud computing, AI, and analytical reasoning — all skills that align with the fastest growing job roles. While many colleges and universities do offer courses around data, some institutions are still utilizing curriculum that isn’t directly related to the newest skills and technologies that new grads need to learn. According to LinkedIn’s workforce report from May, recent grads are adding additional skills after graduation that are focused on data. To fully prepare grads for the new career landscape, curriculum should constantly be iterated on to ensure grads are meeting the needs of employers.
So how can institutions shape curriculum to support students’ job readiness? We put together 4 key strategies that colleges and universities can take to improve curriculum and ensure it’s meeting the needs of today’s graduates.
- Align curriculum with key skills employers are looking for
Students are finding that even after they graduate, they need to quickly supplement their education. An “always learning” mindset, is highly encouraged, however, ideally colleges and universities would be able to support these skills before students graduate as well. LinkedIn’s study found that the top five skills grads are looking to learn are:
- Data Visualization
- Data Modeling
- Web Analytics
Many institutions already have courses and degree programs that include some of these skills, like an engineering or a data science degree. However, the key to meeting the needs of employers is taking a step back and looking at the common thread between these skills: problem solving with data. Being able to memorize a programming language or learn how to use a software platform is useful, but being able to problem solve and analyze data thoroughly by being able to “cut through the noise” is what sets students apart.
Temple realized the importance of this skill and launched a Cultural Analytics Certificate that will focus on students honing their analysis methods skills. The certificate is interdisciplinary, and allows students to come in as a cohort and tailor their coursework to their needs.
- Forming industry partnerships
Experience with cutting edge technology like AI and cloud computing may be highly sought after, but it can be difficult for students to get their hands on that kind of technology before they enter the workforce. When developing curriculum that centers around these new kinds of technologies, industry partnerships are extremely beneficial for colleges, as they can get access to high-demand tech at a reduced rate or even at no cost.
Earlier this year, Amazon announced that they were partnering with several New York colleges to create a cloud computing certificate program for students across New York. The program offers hands-on training with AWS (Amazon Web Services), a skill that is in high-demand. The program also offers AWS trainings for faculty and free credits on AWS that allow students to complete class projects at no additional cost.
At Ohio State University, a pilot project was created using Clary AI toolkit, an AI platform developed by Nvidia in collaboration with the American College of Radiology. In the pilot, the platform was used to “develop an enhanced cardiac computed tomography angiography model”. In layman’s terms, Ohio State radiologists were able to apply their data and adapt the model to OSU patients to support clinical needs.
- Rethink “General Education”
Most colleges and universities require all students to complete a series of general education classes, which usually consist of subjects like social sciences, humanities, english, math, and natural sciences. Many general education courses are crucial to a well-rounded education, some courses can be thought of by students as “freebies” — where they chose an easy class to fulfill a requirement, and don’t have any real interest in it.
With college tuition at an all-time high, helping students get the most out of their course schedule each semester or quarter will help to improve graduation rate, decrease debt, and improve job placement rates after college.
So how can colleges rethink general education? Courses that support the “in-demand” skills like data literacy and problem solving should be added to general education programs to ensure all students are prepared for the workforce.
Goucher revamped their general education program to do away with a “checklist” of requirements and instead offers first-year students the opportunity to dive into real-world questions and issues, putting their data analysis and problem-solving skills to the test.
Assistant Professor of mass communication at Colorado Mesa University, Dr. Megan Fromm, suggests that the higher education industry “restructures “core curriculum” to present challenging concepts within a framework this is accessible and empowering to digital natives”. Courses like “Ethical issues in communicating data” or “Technology as tools for empowerment” are some examples Dr. Fromm feels could really attract students and support the skills they’ll need in this high-tech age.
- Getting faculty on board
Considering the fact that faculty members are the people responsible for delivering college curriculum, it’s only natural to ensure that faculty is supportive of any curriculum adjustments. Include faculty in the early discussions, allowing them to help brainstorm ways they can revamp their curriculum. For example, when Goucher adopted a new curriculum called “Goucher Commons”, faculty had to adapt to big changes like longer teaching periods and centralized “disciplinary centers” instead of departments. While there can be a learning curve for changes like this, faculty members were excited about teaching new courses and the change of pace.
For example, the math faculty were interested in the idea of data analytics instead of traditional math.
In 2016, Ripon introduced their Catalyst curriculum, which was designed with direct involvement of faculty members. Faculty members were asked which skills they thought students needed to develop in their 15-week long third-year seminar course. Coincidentally, the skills faculty thought students needed to learn aligned directly with what employers have reported that they want to see from graduates.
Curriculum changes, like any shift in your career, can take time to grasp for faculty members. When planning for a curriculum adjustment, it’s important to incorporate faculty training as well. Offering professional development opportunities, whether they are internal resources or even external conferences or classes, can help ensure that your faculty is fully prepared to successfully teach students the new curriculum.