School of Education News

Hora speaks with Education Week for special report on skills students need for workplace

October 12, 2018

Education Week recently put out a special report that takes an in-depth look at what skills students need for the workplace.

A preview of the series of reports explains: "In survey after survey, employers complain that today’s young job candidates lack practical skills in reading, writing, speaking, and digital literacy. In this special report, Education Week probes the disconnect between what schools teach and what the workplace demands and highlights how some K-12 educators are attempting to bridge those gaps."

Matt Hora
And among the range of experts Education Week uses to put this topic in perspective is UW-Madison’s Matthew Hora, an assistant professor of adult and higher education in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies. He is an affiliate with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Hora is also a research scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), and the director of UW-Madison’s Center for College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT), which is housed within WCER.  

Hora’s work is noted in the article headlined, “Speaking Skills Top Employer Wish Lists. But Schools Don't Teach Them.”

Education Week explains: “Employers say they have trouble finding new hires with good oral-communication skills. But relatively few regular public K-12 schools explicitly teach those skills, and even fewer teach them with real-world workplace scenarios. That mismatch doesn't bode well for young people's job prospects, or for companies searching for new talent.”

Company surveys rarely identify or define the specific, concrete communication skills employers need. And Hora tells Education Week that’s a problem.

"Those lists aren't detailed enough. They don't break it out by mode: oral, digital, nonverbal, written. And they don't break it out by discipline, either," Hora tells Education Week.

Traveling around Wisconsin to study the kinds of verbal interactions that are most important for nurses and petroleum engineers, Hora found differences and commonalities.

Education Week notes: “Nurses told him that it's crucial for them to know how to listen attentively to patients and families and speak with warmth and empathy, he said. The engineers and nurses both needed to master the skill of translating technical jargon into accessible language, to convey ideas to lay people or to train newcomers, Hora said.”

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