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Bridging the Relevance Gap

Many graduates have trouble finding links between what they learned in college or university and what they need to know in the workplace. Higher education institutions should strive to be the first stop for professionals when they decide they need to upgrade their knowledge to succeed and advance in their careers.

The search for a stable marriage between workplace relevance and program content is increasingly becoming a major goal of higher education. Research conducted in Europe, where the Bologna Process seeks to find some connection between the two (in addition to increasing access) is showing the growing disparity students are experiencing between the knowledge they earn from their programs, and the knowledge they need for work. Ultimately, higher education institutions cannot accurately predict and deliver all the knowledge graduates will need through the course of their career, but they can offer ongoing learning opportunities to afford graduates the opportunity to return and gain just-in-time knowledge.

The main reality depends on various factors. Among them are higher education curricula themselves, the social and economic reality of different countries and, of course, individual differences. In some countries it seems that individual differences have more weight than the rest of the variables. Trying to find a stable marriage between the work market and the academy is vital to ensuring the employability of graduates and the continued growth of economies.

In this regard, some articles found that students can’t see a relationship between their academic skills and the skills required on the labor market (Mason, Williams & Cranmer, 2009; Little & Arthur, 2010; Livanos, 2010; Wilton, 2011).

When research focused on the competency model, a product of the Bologna Process applied in Europe, results can be controversial. Different samples of students found useful and applicable skills gained under this model, others found it difficult to relate what they learn with labor needs, but of course, we will have to look more carefully each of profession and their programs (Mulder, Gulikers, Biemans and Wesselink, 2009).

In this sense, the concept of employability appears, which means the need to relate academic skills developed during academic programs and relate them with labor needs, specifically those which involve entering a job market, even those not necessarily related to studies but allowing to graduates to maintain a high quality of employment. Some needs lead them to return to higher education to learn new skills, to take courses to obtain grades, or to acquire skills specific to the job or for the future job moves (Wilton, 2011).

Employability is related with the flexibility and creativity, both concepts have been analyzed under different optical related with workplace and that have sought to awaken in the academic field. It has also been made clear that some professions can better develop creative skills than the programs of higher education (Lorenz and Bengt-Åke, 2009).

Under this perspective, it seems that North America cannot continue to operate under the notion (expressed in several education magazines) that developing students’ cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills as the most important goal of higher education (Sparks, 2012). While these skills are certainly important to the academic field, the demands of the labor market are very different and colleges and universities must accommodate that.

In conclusion, higher education and the labor market are a thwarted marriage, but they are not willing to separate, so one of them must meet their romantic exchanges. My opinion is higher education can design more flexible curriculum and offer specific courses, beyond a closed point of view, it would be necessary to be in touch with business and industry needs, technology change so fast that there is no way a curriculum can keep up. Additionally, higher education can make greater strides toward delivering learning to professionals who have already graduated to ensure that employees can keep up with the particular and changing demands of the labor market.

Another piece of advice would be for colleges and universities to hire more professionals working in the field as instructors. This is another debate but full-time positions only made sense when academy didn’t need to be so flexible. Now it’s important to understand business needs and goals in order for graduates to keep a good level of employability. The goal is professional  excellency, not only academic skills.

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Dzib Goodin, A (2012) Creativity, when a+b is equal to innovation.  Available at:

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Sparks, SD. (2012) Study: “21st-Century learning” demands mix abilities. Education Week. Available at:

Wilton, N. (2011) Do employability skills really matter in the UK graduate labour market? The case of business and management graduates. Work, Employment & Society. 25 (1)  85-100.

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