A recent study of 225 employers reveals some interesting data about what is desired in college graduates entering the work force. Not surprisingly -- to some of us -- a liberal arts education will accomplish most of what employers want.
- Internships. Employers are looking for applicants who have had internships. Over 90% want their potential workers to have one or two of them.
- Getting Hired. Things that carry the most weight in hiring an applicant: relevant courses, referrals from bosses or professors (I spend a lot of time writing these and take them very seriously), and internship experience.
- Skills. The top four skills that employers want AND have difficulty finding in applicants: communication skills, positive attitude, adaptability to change and teamwork.
- College Majors. Thirty percent of employers are recruiting liberal arts majors. That rate is topped only by companies recruiting engineering and computer majors at 34%. The really bad news: only 18% are recruiting finance and accounting majors.
One of the common misconceptions about a liberal arts college or university is that it is a liberal (as opposed to conservative) political environment. This is a faulty correlation. In fact, the liberal arts should be understood as the liberating arts and can include literature, language, philosophy, history, math, psychology, science and religion/theology. The goal of a liberal arts education is to develop a well-rounded person who is capable of thinking critically and able to adapt to multiple work contexts.
This will be absolutely essential in the coming decades, as new industries -- many that we can't yet even imagine -- will require workers who can learn new skills, concepts and frameworks. The inability to acclimate to the changing culture will greatly hinder job prospects and professional development.
But what about ministry? That's what I teach at Fresno Pacific University. Why would a liberal arts education be critical for those wanting to serve the church? Answer: because as the culture changes around us, so does the role and nature of leadership in the church. What the church needs is leaders who can navigate the shifting currents of the world around us. What the church needs is leaders who have experience in ground-level grassroots ministries, a broad education, the ability to communicate well, positive and hopeful attitudes, and the capacity to foster teams of people committed to the work of the gospel.
Did you notice what is missing from the list above? The study suggests that employers are not valuing applicants who are strong, decisive, aggressive, confident, arrogant, etc. There doesn't seem to be an interest in narrow expertise or rugged individualism. The day of the cheif-executive-anything is nearly over, especially in the church.
Interested in ministry? A liberal arts education is a must for the next generation of church leaders.