The QA Commons is mindful of the dramatic and transformational impact COVID-19 is having on all institutions of higher education. As an organization, we are adapting our services to support preparing graduates for the workplace that is now changing more precipitously than ever.
A Professor of Music (Percussion), an Associate Professor of Geology, a Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, an Assistant Professor of Engineering, an Assistant Professor and Director of Veterans Affairs, a Division Chair of Allied Health… All are members of the first cohort of the Kentucky Faculty Employability Fellows program.
One of the key obstacles to the introduction of workforce and career preparation materials in existing college courses is the mistaken belief of faculty that focusing on such issues is “vocationalizing” the curriculum, or taking time away from higher order thinking. Yet, surveys consistently find that nearly 40% of recent college and university graduates do not believe they were well prepared for the workforce, and would have changed their major, their institution, or not attended college at all as a result. Employer surveys mirror these results. Faculty, therefore, need to be at the front line in guiding students toward careers and providing assignments that will prepare students for common workplace issues.
In response to initial findings through Kentucky’s participation in the QA Commons’ Essential Employability Certification program (EEQ CERTTM), a ten month Fellowship program has been designed in order to involve faculty in creating cultures within their institutions supporting employability. The Fellows will:
Faculty will learn first-hand about Kentucky’s workforce needs, employer concerns, and views of the role higher education needs to play within the education and workforce ecosystem in Kentucky.
The eight Essential Employability Qualities that serve as the foundation of the QA Commons’ EEQ CERTTM program are:
In the first convening of the Fellows, a Fellow shared feedback provided by a regional employer:
“Your students know the technology. But, your students can only solve problems if they look just like the problems in their books.”
Attainment of the EEQs aims to address this problem. Skepticism amongst faculty around the value of soft skills was acknowledged, especially absent “hard” skills that are teachable and testable. Janna Vice, Director of the Faculty Fellows Program (and Provost Emeritus at Eastern Kentucky University) agreed that, by themselves, soft skills are lacking. Hard and soft skills operate like two wings of an airplane… you need them both. Ralph Wolff, Founder and President of the QA Commons, noted that this is exactly why it is critical to integrate soft skills with academic content and that doing so is better than offering a separate module or stand alone course on soft skills.
19 programs from six Kentucky universities and community colleges are currently undertaking the EEQ CERTTM process. To help strengthen Kentucky’s workforce, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) has partnered with the QA Commons in the first implementation of EEQ CERTTM. The program is ultimately intended to serve as a statewide and national model for how educators and employers can work together for student success.
The mission of the QA Commons is narrow the gap between higher education and employment, ensuring that all students are prepared for the rapidly changing world of work.
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