Re-tooling PSE for Student Success

By Tricia Seifert

I’ve been watching this conversation about re-tooling postsecondary education to meet Ontario’s job needs with keen interest. It seems that many see the role of postsecondary education as providing job training, particularly in Ontario’s college sector. But even beyond the express vocational education mandate of the colleges, one need not look far to find those who talk about university graduates who do not have the skills to find a job in today’s economy. It seems both of Ontario’s postsecondary education sectors are being called to task to educate graduates for today’s work force.  On its face, this seems to be a logical point of view. But when we dig a little deeper, we realize that today’s labour needs will not be the needs of tomorrow.  A good number of jobs that exist today did not exist ten years ago. How does postsecondary education meet the needs of a labour market that is ever-changing?

I suggest that colleges and universities must think of education as that which begins with content knowledge (whether that content knowledge is in auto mechanics or Canadian literature) but continues with educating students in the transferable skills of critical thinking and effective reasoning  as well as communication – writing and speaking—across modes (blogs, formal memos, tweets) and to multiple audiences. Couple these transferable skills with the transferable attitudes/dispositions of respectfully working with and learning from members of diverse communities, developing the capacity to learn how one learns and a willingness to see learning as a lifelong process to round-out an education. In this regard, postsecondary education is framed by the content knowledge (as the context for student learning) but focuses its efforts on developing transferable skills and attitudes that enable graduates to contribute meaningfully as citizens of their communities and re-invent themselves as the job market evolves.

Reflecting on the hundreds of definitions of student success we have heard from participants in the Supporting Student Success study, I suggest a postsecondary education that develops these transferable skills and attitudes is one that truly positions students to be successful both today and in years to come.

We love hearing from you. What do you think about this conversation to re-tool PSE? What is the role of PSE in educating students for the work force? How are we doing? What could we do better? Please leave a comment and be part of the conversation.

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3 thoughts on “Re-tooling PSE for Student Success

  1. PSE, I would argue does need to meet the demands of the labour market, but I would also argue to the needs of community responsibility. Transferable skills, also include life skills such as problem-solving, time management, decision-making, interpersonal conflict resolution, to name only afew. When we contribute to community, we also teach health and wellbeing…how does one manage the stressors of university/college life, for the transferable skill will then be to family, and how to manage demands of children, spouses, parents, grandparentes, friends, colleauges, and such….Student services has its mission to create well-rounded individuals, in my mind’s eye, that is not merely limited to intellect, but also to emotional, physical and spiritual well-being….hard to do and grasp for those still thinking that cognition is unrelated to those other realms….just a few of my immediate thoughts…. Thank you for the moment to reflect…

  2. love the comment about getting students into position so that they can “re-invent themselves as the job market evolves”. They will be truly successful when they can see options for themselves, and I think PSE helps students with this, no matter which program they graduate from – there are many, many career choices and opportunities!

  3. I couldn’t agree more about content knowlege and transferable skills. We need to do a better job educating employers about these skils though. A case in point – I picked up a pizza in September at my local pizza shop. The owner asked me if we busy at the University. I told him we were and he replied, “my niece just started a philosophy degree, useful eh?” I responded with a quick comment about what good analytical and problem solving skills she would develop, and wouldn’t someone like that be good for his business. A light seemed to come on and he responded, “I never thought of it like that, but, she’d be too smart to go into the pizza business.”

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