Learning Outcomes vs Human Skills


Employers think in terms of “skills,” not “learning objectives.”  This snippet from Burning Glass Technologies, an analytics software company focused on bringing together the spheres of education and the labor market, offers a glimpse into the gap between employers and educational institutions.

Burning Glass Technologies delivers job market analytics that empowers employers, workers, and educators to make labor market data-driven decisions. Burning Glass is reshaping how the labor market works, with data that identify the skill gaps that keep job seekers and employers apart and tools that enable both sides to bridge that gap and connect more easily…Burning Glass’ applications drive practical solutions and are used across the job market: by educators in aligning programs with the market, by employers and recruiters in filling positions more effectively, and by policy makers in shaping strategic workforce decisions. At the same time, Burning Glass’ data-driven applications for workers and students help them choose career goals and build the skills they need to get ahead. 

As Northwestern strives for continued relevance in a competitive economy, we need to acknowledge what those outside of higher education have long been saying:  moldable job skills outweigh academic credentials.  

Suggestions for Northwestern

The language of “skills”—or, even better, the skills themselves—should become more prominent in our curriculum design and course planning.  We need to have ““curriculum mapping aligned with marketable skills, ” as the University of Texas system has emphasized. The logical place to start would be with our NWCore program, where a committee and director already exist to oversee such changes, but it should not be limited to the Core.

Furthermore, NWC has a responsibility to identify skills that workplaces do not so easily identify as key to employee and organizational success—specifically skills that derive from our Christian mission and calling.  A Northwestern graduate should not only be adept at the often-listed soft skills of teamwork, communication, and initiative, but also Christian qualities like empathy, selflessness, grace, generosity, and servanthood.  NWC should explore how these skills can be deliberately instilled not only into the Northwestern Core but into Northwestern grads.

Strategic Plan

Goal 3.1 – Pursue strategic enrollment growthIncrease residential undergraduate enrollment to 1,050 by 2023.

Goal 3.3 – Pursue strategic enrollment growthDevelop and resource an integrated marketing strategy that enhances Northwestern College’s reputation for intellectual rigor, vocational success, and select programs of strength.

Additional Resources