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Are Schools Equipping Students with Writing Skills for the Workplace?

By Jamie Mishich

An individual’s 18th birthday is a major turning point and is highly anticipated. Not only does it mark our transformation into an adult, but also is usually the  start of a new era in  education. College is seen as the ultimate pathway to getting a good, paying job and a happy life. The formula seems simple...get good grades in college and you’ll have the skills to land a good job and be successful

Viewing education with a critical lens, college is important for certain degrees. But the vast majority of time spent doesn’t educate students with the skills required for the real world. To an employer, seeing a person is a college graduate just shows they have the ability to learn, not necessarily that the individual has any real skill. Many of the concepts taught in high school and college, however, have been proven to be impractical. This is particularly the case when it comes to writing. The rigorous hours spent memorizing meaningless concepts to do well on the test, but does little for students outside of class time. Students are often taught methods of writing in an educational manner that don’t apply to the outside world. 

High school is supposed to prepare students for college, and thus colleges assume that students already know how to write when they arrive at college. The National Center for Education Statistics conducted a survey in 2017 and determined that 75% of 12th and 8th graders lacked writing proficiency. There is a large chasm between the students' skills in writing and the level of proficiency expected by colleges.

Payscale conducted a survey on 63,924 hiring managers on their thoughts on recent college graduates' abilities to write. 44% of the managers said recent college graduates lack professional writing skills. This is an alarming statistic that almost 50% of college students aren’t proficient in writing. What is preventing students from becoming proficient writers? Here are some thoughts.

1. Academic Writing

From the first time students pick up a pencil and learn to hold it, the concept of academic writing is most emphasized. Academic writing is a strict form of communication that is intended to be read by a researcher or scholar. Students are taught to write paragraphs with claims and evidence to support their themes in a specific format. Many students can relate to trying to read an academic essay or article while searching for information and being unable to go past the first paragraph because of how dry and lengthy it is. While academic writing has some value in certain fields, it is ingrained into our brains and limits creativity.

2. No Focus on Different Audiences

The audience for the majority of essays written by students are for teachers and researchers. We are taught to always format our writing in an academic format. The problem is that schools don’t teach students to be adaptable within their writing or learn how to reach different audiences. In the real world, outside of school, writing is almost never written in the academic way, but is intended to reach different age groups, genders, and ethnicities. Very rarely are these subjects touched upon within schools. The purpose of writing a great article is to gain the attention of the reader and engage them in a different practical way of thinking that brings them value. Writing online content for other readers, such as a blog, is something that isn't taught within schools, yet is one of the most important forms of communications in business.

3. The Flawed Concept of Grades 

How does a student know whether they’ve written a good paper? They receive a letter grade from their teacher based on the quality of the essay. There is a major difference between what our goals are as a student, and what our goals from a career perspective. Strict rubrics are designed for students to format their writing in a certain way to achieve the optimal grade. Grammar, somehow, becomes more important than concise paragraphs that convey a meaning. Other times, students get credit for the ideas they produce and not how well they convey them to the reader. Students are writing in the style their instructor wants in order to get the best grade. There is an inherent issue when the focus isn’t learning how to write, but rather how to please their teacher into giving them a good grade.

The good news is that there are technology and new concepts out there that equip students with the writing skills needed for the workplace. 

Global Innovators Academy’s Interview an Innovator experience is one such program. teaches students how to write entertaining content that provides value to a specific audience. Students go through the course and interview an innovator, and then write an article about what they learned. The course teaches a type of writing that school’s don’t prioritize, but is used widely within the professional world: stories, best practices and personal application.

I personally went through the course and interviewed Patrick Klinger, the president of Agile Marketing Partners. I learned how to communicate through an interview, and write an article on innovative ideas learned from the interview. Global Innovators Academy has driven me to work on perfecting my writing and communications skills, as well as given me a possible career path within communications. Jamie is a student at St. Thomas University studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Connect with him on LinkedIn and learn more about his company.

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