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Employers’ Input on Education Sought

February 13, 2013
By SHELLEY HANSON - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

To get to the bottom of what employers really want and need in their workers, Wheeling Rotary Club members participated Tuesday in a survey at the request of West Liberty University President Robin Capehart.

Capehart distributed the university's ''Institute for Innovation in Education Employers' Survey'' during the noon lunch meeting at WesBanco Arena.

He said he planned to have at least 500 others in the business community statewide also take the survey, which asked several questions related to the importance of various skills and knowledge.

Article Photos

Photo by Shelley Hanson
West Liberty University President Robin Capehart talks Tuesday about improving higher education to meet employers’ needs.

For each, the survey taker was asked to give a ranking between 10 (highly desirable) and zero (not necessary).

For example, one skill they were asked to rank was ''written and oral communication.''

The survey also asked people to rate the performance of post-secondary education in preparing its graduates in various areas.

''That's what we're trying to start now - to get employers to tell us what they need,'' Capehart said. ''There are certain soft skills that employers want.''

He noted the surveys will be part of a larger project by the Association of American Colleges and Universities titled ''Liberal Education and America's Promise.''

''It's the one thing I've seen in education where they're not asking for any money. They're asking employers who would like to be involved in the program to help elevate the idea that students need a broader education,'' he said.

Capehart said an area higher education institutions need to better address is their graduates' competency.

He noted community colleges and union apprenticeships are good at producing people who are competent in their field or trade.

"We don't have a tendency to do that. We have a tendency to say, 'How many hours did you sit there? ... OK, here's your degree.' Now can that student read and write and solve problems? Well, most employers are saying no. It's a problem, and it's one we're addressing at West Liberty," Capehart said.

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