Should college students spend the four years after high school merging their minds with their hearts and experiences, ultimately building a self? Or should they focus on skills and talents that will let them dive headfirst into the workplace as soon as the cap and gown come off? Former Yale University English professor William Deresiewicz argued the first case in last week’s The New Republic cover story, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.” But in 2013, Inc. magazine surveyed the CEOs of the Inc. 5000: 76% said finding qualified talent was a major problem.
This disconnect between academia and corporations isn’t new. “Companies used to not care that you didn’t have hard skills,” says Jeff Selingo, author of College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students. Work ethic was required—and the technical skills were learned on the job through formal and informal training. But Anthony Carnevale, Director and Research Professor at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says the 1980 recession changed everything; the skill level required for entry level positions went up and formal training programs declined, so prospective employees began paying more money to those with more education (and therefore, more skills).