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A Fresh Take on the Skills Gap

In his book “Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work,” author Matthew T. Hora, assistant professor in adult teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, provides an updated look at the increasingly discussed notion of the skills gap, challenging some commonly held beliefs about the subject and providing nuance to others.  

Inside Higher Ed recently spoke with Hora, who shared his thoughts on why he feels it’s crucial to reframe the conversation around the concept of the skills gap. Hora notes that while there are indeed many industries that are facing a shortage of suitably skilled talent, we should give pause to the idea that academia is to blame for this scarcity. A short-sided view of the skills gap, Hora asserts, affects more than just higher education—it’s having an effect on public policy as well.  

Acknowledging the importance of training and education in the realm of STEM and the skilled trades, Hora nevertheless suggests that we must disabuse ourselves of the idea that a liberal arts education should only be obtained by the wealthy, while low-income students are encouraged only to take part in job training. The skills we gain from a liberal arts education, Hora states, are many of the same skills privileged by the very same STEM, manufacturing and trade positions that are in such high demand.

The skills gap is clearly a topic of great importance to industry, academia and society at large. Hora’s insight furthers the notion that a healthy workforce ecosystem is contingent on a workforce that has both job skills and so-called “soft” skills, which include a strong work ethic and an aptitude for communication. 

To read Insider Higher Ed’s interview with Hora, click here.


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