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Employers, Graduate Schools Aim to Narrow Gap between Workforce Needs and Graduate Training
Washington, DC — Graduate schools and programs play a key role in preparing students for the knowledge workforce, but more work needs to be done, according to a new report by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). Currently, the preparation of US graduate students is too narrowly focused on academic research skills, at the expense of professional skills such as communication, teamwork, mentoring, and leadership.
Most STEM PhDs and master’s degree recipients work in careers outside the academy. To improve graduate student preparation for multiple career pathways, CGS conducted a two-year project to map the landscape of STEM professional development programs with support from the National Science Foundation (#1413827). Project activities included a survey of over 900 university deans, STEM faculty, and professional development staff at 226 institutions; interviews with employers from across the STEM workforce; and a workshop of industry leaders, federal science agencies, entrepreneurs, graduate deans, researchers, and recent PhDs and postdocs.
“The good news coming out of this project is that graduate institutions are devoting considerable time and resources to broadening the professional preparation of students in STEM graduate programs,” said CGS President Suzanne Ortega. “But to ensure that students succeed, we will need to make it easier for them to access high-quality resources. Our ultimate goals should be supporting student success in a range of career paths, and promoting the health and competitiveness of the STEM workforce.”
Sharing a perspective held by many employers, Brian Fitzgerald, CEO of the Business-Higher Education Forum, said that innovation increasingly relies on a workforce that possesses cross-cutting skills, preferably those in technology. “Many employers seek to collaborate with universities to address the STEM skill demand. Businesses benefit from these partnerships because they get critically needed talent, and universities benefit because their students graduate with job-ready skills.”
Key Project Findings
The report includes recommendations for improving professional development of STEM graduate students in research degree programs. These include:
Survey findings were used to develop a searchable online database of university professional development programs for graduate students, which universities can use as models for developing new programs or improving existing ones.
The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of approximately 500 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research, and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research, and the development and dissemination of best practices.