Wanted: communicative graduate
Study programs are not adapted to business needs, graduates do not have communication skills, specialists lack empathy and organizational skills, according to research conducted in Poland and over a dozen European countries.
In Polish stock exchange companies, for three years in-depth interviews were conducted regarding the competencies of employees and managers` expectations for universities preparing staff for work in business. Similar research was conducted by 8 universities in different countries as part of the Lead4Skills project funded by Erasmus Plus. The leader of the Polish part of the project is Prof. Dorota Dobija, an economist from the Kozminski University in Warsaw.
According to Prof. Dobija, the results are universal. In all countries of Central and Eastern Europe, study programs are not adapted to the needs of business, and many lecturers lack practical approach. How are they supposed to prepare students for work if they do not know the specifics of business and the problems that employees will face on a daily basis?
"It is crucial to shape soft skills, especially communication skills. Financial officers need more than accounting skills and proficiency in using spreadsheets. They should be able to talk to people from quality assurance, human resources and operations in order to transfer their expectations and their work to financial language. Then they have to communicate it all to the board members. Universities focus on hard, specialist skills. We do not look at the competences of students comprehensively" - says Prof. Dobija.
She adds that soft skills that business managers participating in the study expect include not only communication understood as preparing and conducting presentations, but also empathy, understanding the situation of another person.
"A team consists of individuals who have their own priorities and goals, which do not necessarily coincide with the goals of their boss. It is difficult to organize work so that everyone can realize their goals. We rarely teach how to implement projects to the satisfaction of all team members" - notes the economist.
She points out that while there are workshops at universities, large projects are still rare. For example, Master`s or Bachelor`s theses must be written individually. "And it would be a valuable experience for a student to prepare a large project in a team - just like in daily work in a company" - proposes Prof. Dobija.
A SPECIALIST OR AN INTELLECTUAL?
In the years 2016-2018, Prof. Dorota Dobija, Anna Górska and Sylwia Hałas-Dej from the Kozminski University collected responses to over 80 questionnaires sent to Polish and foreign companies operating in the production, financial and IT sectors. The researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 18 CEOs and heads of HR.
They showed that managers` expectations from universities included individualized approach to students and transferring practical knowledge.
Those requirements concern not only training for companies and "tailor-made" post-graduate studies. The researcher also applies them to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies. She believes that also in this case one can speak about the service role of the university.
"All universities should establish cooperation with companies and adapt to the needs of the labour market. It will be harder to do that with elite humanistic studies. Today`s universities are forges of specialists. Of course, also intellectuals who must have an excellent general education. But on the other hand - they should adapt quickly to the requirements of the labour market" - the professor explains.
The researcher notes that the traditional role of university is disappearing. "I can not imagine a world without universities. But to a large extent, the knowledge that we transfer to students is available without having to attend classes. It can be obtained by accessing online resources and online courses provided by the world`s best universities. Universities have to revise the way of thinking about their role in society" - says Prof. Dobija.
She also draws attention to the need to adapt to the requirements of the new generation. This task is for both universities and employers. A young, educated person is not ready to work for 12 hours a day in order to pursue a goal with which he or she does not fully agree. The contemporary employee also wants to have appropriate conditions for development - both at the stage of studies and later, in flexibly organized work.
Dr. Alenka Bracek-Lalic is the leader of the international research project. The results of the project have been described in a monograph published by Springer.
PAP - Science in Poland, Karolina Duszczyk
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