Monday, March 25, 2013

William Pannapacker on the Liberal Arts and the Job Market

Here is a taste of Pannapacker's recent post at The New York Times:

There are no guarantees for young people now when it comes to using college to prepare for a job. The world is changing too quickly to make reliable predictions. Assume that you will have many careers, and that you will need to find ways to adapt your talents to the world’s needs.

I believe the best place to do that is a liberal arts college...

...I keep hearing the same thing from potential employers: “We love students with liberal-arts degrees. They are curious; they know how to ask good questions. They know how to conduct research. They are effective writers and speakers. And they learn quickly.“

All good news, so far, for those of us who support traditional liberal-arts education. But there’s more:

“So I’d love to hire your students,” they say, “provided they can also help us fix this Web site, handle our social media, help us with fund-raising, and maybe even cultivate some new clients. Do you have anyone like that? We can only hire one person.”

For a growing number of liberal arts colleges, the answer is an emphatic “Yes, we do.” We have students who have been doing those things all along, and they can prove it. Liberal-arts colleges are now engaging with the “digital humanities.” Simply put, that means we are producing history and music majors who are as good at working with technology as they are at developing research projects and performing on stage. They are prepared for graduate school, but they are equally prepared for the workplace, and they think like entrepreneurs who are used to bootstrapping.

In a period of rapid, unpredictable change, a combination of traditional liberal-arts education, collaborative research, workplace experiences, and a “can-do” attitude is the safest bet for future employment, as well as the foundation for good citizenship and a life that’s engaged with culture and thought. 

Also check out Chris Gehrz's discussion of liberal arts and jobs at The Pietist Schoolman.