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Communication, writing skills outrank technical in Northeastern U poll

Sep 20, 2013

Ohio University students present their ideas during the first Scripps Innovation Challenge finale on April 11, 2012. / Photos by Megan Westervelt

Communication, writing skills outrank technical in Northeastern U poll

By Erin Roberts

ATHENS, Ohio (Sept. 20, 2013)—In an opinion poll published earlier this week by Northeastern University and featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday, more than 1,200 hiring managers ranked professionals’ communication and writing skills more important than technical skills.

According to researchers, the study’s main finding asserted that “despite the recent focus on STEM  (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees, most Americans and particularly business leaders say it is more important for graduates to be well-rounded and possess broader capabilities such as problem solving and communication skills.”

Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth says the study highlights what he has known to be true as a communication educator. 

“This study is part of a consistent pattern showing that communication skills are vital to professional success,” said Titsworth. “The ability to think critically and creatively, coupled with the ability to express ideas across multiple modalities is essential to everyone's future in an increasingly fast-paced, digital world. If higher education is to effectively meet the needs of students, communication must become an even more vibrant part of students' experiences.”

The survey was conducted with 1,000 respondents via telephone in mid-August and an additional 263 respondents online in mid-July. According to Northeastern University, the sample included decision-makers and executives from companies both small and large with a global presence.

Associate Dean for Innovation, Research and Creative Activity and Graduate Studies Michelle Ferrier maintains that knowledge of the larger media landscape is also important for all college graduates. 

“Students from all majors are finding they must use well-honed communication skills to develop and promote their work,” Ferrier said. “However, the ability to communicate orally and in writing needs to be coupled with an understanding of the structures of communication and media that control cultural narratives.”

Associate Dean for Student Success Beth Novak said communication skills are critical to graduates and professionals in the workplace. 

“Industry jobs require students to be collaborative and team-oriented,” she said. “The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently is essential!”

Among other findings, the poll revealed that hiring managers believe college degrees are even more important that they have been in the past but that declining confidence in online education and concerns about the higher education system’s ability to effectively train graduates are also common sentiments.