An important reality regarding today’s job market and employment search is that employers are increasingly emphasizing “experience and demonstrable skills” over  “unprovable hype.”

Mostly gone are the days when being a decent student who earned a degree at a decent university served as a strong calling card for employers.

In today’s job market, employers:

  • Increasingly emphasize definable and demonstrable skills
  • Post jobs online via managed job boards (such as Indeed) and applicant tracking systems (icims and Workday),  where resumes are parsed for skills and rated in terms of their alignment with job requirements
  • Set up screening calls (pre-interview calls) with HR managers or recruiters to determine whether or not the candidate really has the experience/skills necessary to merit further attention
  • Except in profession-specific domains ( such as Engineering, Accounting, Finance), employers often use the degree requirement as “table stakes” but look to experience and skills as the primary indicators for employment candidacy
  • Asks about additional training and certificates beyond the college degree and look LinkedIn profiles and endorsements as supplemental proof of job readiness

All this to say that, in today’s world, candidates who want to move forward and upward professionally need to “show their work”  to employers instead of merely “showing their potential.”

With that in mind, U.S. education (K-12, Higher Education, Vocational Education) must do a better job of:

  1. Informing students (of all ages) what industry/profession/job opportunities exist in their region, and what education/skills are required to take advantage of those opportunities
  2. Showing students how different degree/program choices align with specific industry/profession/job opportunities
  3. Providing up-to-date degree/program-job ROI information so that students can make the best possible financial decisions
  4. Identifying and aligning profession/job-specific skills with degree/program plans, as well as individual courses
  5. Integrating mastery and/or project-based assignments that allow students to demonstrate their acquisition of skills and competencies
  6. Awarding diverse credentials (badges, certificates, degrees) that provide rich detail about the skills and competencies students have earned, with links to representative evidence of their mastery
  7. Giving students access to and control of comprehensive learner records that reflect their knowledge and abilities, and allow them to add new experiences and learning evidence 


NB: I am a former Humanities professor and a huge proponent of liberal arts ideals. My experience as an educator, learning designer, and curriculum developer has shown me that teaching students to think broadly and critically is in no way incompatible with aligning curriculum and instruction with skills attainment.