What Gets Forgotten in Debates About the Liberal Arts

March 21, 2018

Matthew Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, on blending hard and soft skills.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The future of work is about a blending of hard and soft skills. Students who combine their liberal-arts training with a technical skill make themselves prime candidates for good-paying jobs, according to a recent report from Matthew Sigelman of Burning Glass Technologies and Mark Schneider of the American Institutes for Research.

Of the 3.8 million entry-level job opportunities for holders of bachelor’s degrees in the United States, 1.4 million could go to liberal-arts majors who add a digital or specialized skill, potentially giving those graduates a starting salary comparable to that of a graduate who had pursued a more specialized technical major.

Sigelman and Schneider point out that colleges need to direct students to those opportunities through services like the career center. Unfortunately, career centers often lack the resources and bandwidth to reach most students on their campuses.

Matthew T. Hora, an assistant professor of adult and higher education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and director of its Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, worries that advocates tread into dangerous territory when they say the liberal arts are the primary way to spur the coveted noncognitive skills in students.

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