Gallup: Business Leaders Value Knowledge Over College

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At a time when college tuition rates are at an all time high, no one wants to hear that investments in higher education institutions are not paying off. Recent research from Gallup doesn’t exactly suggest that claim, but it certainly doesn’t offer any encouraging news for college students and their parents who are frequently footing the university bill. In its report that Gallup published Wednesday, researchers worked to determine whether business leaders believe U.S. colleges prepare students for the working world post-graduation. The verdict? Not so much.

Gallup’s study helped gauge business leaders’ perceptions of higher education in the U.S., and according to its findings, only about one-third of business leaders surveyed agreed with the statement “higher education institutions in this country are graduating students with the skills and competences that my business needs.” About a third disagreed with the statement, taking into account the 17 percent of leaders who strongly disagreed, while another third gave a neutral response. Gallup gathered its results by conducting a telephone survey with 623 U.S. business leaders from November 25 to December 16 of 2013. The consulting firm made sure that its sample was nationally representative of businesses in the U.S. by mapping its responses via minimum quotas by sales revenue.

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The report’s results are arguably concerning for the families placing their children in higher education institutions solely for the purpose of preparing them for the business world, but what’s also interesting is the disconnect Gallup highlighted between what business leaders say they need and what higher education institutions think they are outputting. According to Gallup, one of its separate studies found that 96 percent of chief academic officers at higher education institutions said their institution is very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the world of work. Based on business leaders’ answers to Gallup’s most recent survey, it would appear they disagree.

What are college grads missing, according to business leaders? Gallup says that business leaders maintain the assertion that current grads don’t have the skills their particular business need such as applicable knowledge and applied skills in the field. This has led businesses to employing international graduate students in the U.S., because these grads tend to show a more impressive set of skills.

It was an eye-opening study Gallup published Wednesday, and those weren’t the only unsettling findings the firm published this week. Only a day earlier, Gallup released its findings for another survey it conducted with business leaders — and this time, the firm wanted to ascertain whether they believe the amount of knowledge an employee candidate has is more relevant when hiring, or what school he attended is. According to Gallup, 623 business leaders were surveyed again for this poll, asked to rank the level of importance four distinct factors have on hiring, and 84 percent said the amount of knowledge a candidate has in a particular field was “very important,” while 79 percent said applied skills were very important. Only 28 percent of business leaders answered that a candidate’s college major was very important, while 9 percent placed a premium on where he or she obtained his college degree.

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The news is difficult for the American public to digest, because while some may be upset by the results, others may be relieved that the institution he or she attended won’t have a negative impact on how likely he is to be hired. The most interesting part of Gallup’s results, however, is the fact that once again, a disconnect between business leaders and another party has been unearthed — and this time it’s between the leaders and the American public as a whole. According to Gallup, although surveyed Americans share the belief that knowledge and applied skills are very important to managers during the hiring practice, the average American rates the candidate’s college major and institution as higher in importance than business leaders do. While only 9 percent of business leaders said that a person’s university was very important during the hiring process, 30 percent of U.S. adults answered that where the candidate received his college degree is very important.

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