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Over the past few years, educators have stressed the increasing demands for college graduates educated in the fields of in science, technology, engineering, and math, believing it is necessary for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy.
Government officials have taken notice of the lack of STEM graduates as well. The Obama administration recently aimed to increase the number of STEM graduates in the higher education system by a million students before 2022.
Despite increased pressure from government officials, educators, and industries pleading for qualified workers, the impending STEM shortage has continued to be a major concern–and with it came harsh criticisms of those who study the humanities and liberal arts.
In spite of this, experts are beginning to point out that education in the liberal arts is not without its merit in the modern workplace. In fact, liberal arts skills are important in every profession, and taking advantage of humanities courses while you’re in college will only make you more hirable after graduation.
The reason? Studies in the humanities and social sciences have been proven to aid in the development of soft skills, which are invaluable in today’s workplace.
Recent studies by CareerBuilder found that 77 percent of employers surveyed agree that soft skills are just as important as hard skills. A separate survey by Harris Poll found that 16 percent surveyed said that they value soft skills more than hard skills when considering candidates for a position.
More than ever, employers are investing in people that positively contribute to their company culture, have problem solving abilities, emotional intelligence, and the ability to adapt to new situations in addition the ability to perform a specific function of the job. In fact, large companies all over the world have indicated that these abilities are vital to their success.
“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough,” Steve Jobs mused in 2010. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.” Other tech CEOs throughout the country have voiced similar opinions.
Students who pursue degrees rich in humanities courses prove to be well polished students with excellent soft skills. These graduates are well equipped to effectively manage people and time, and can come up with creative, out of the box solutions to problems. Additionally, those who study the humanities are also adept writers and communicators, which are beneficial skills in any job market.
Furthermore, in a global economy where technology and business are growing at an alarming rate, employers value students who can think critically and respond quickly to rapidly changing industries. For Georgia Nugent, a former president of Kenyon College, this consideration is of utmost importance.
“It’s a horrible irony that at the very moment the world has become more complex, we’re encouraging our young people to be specialized in one task,” Nugent tells FastCompany. “The liberal arts are still relevant because they prepare students to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.”
While America’s STEM shortage cannot be ignored, it’s clear that leaders in the technology and business sectors have rapidly begun embracing job seekers who not only have the technical skills required to succeed at the job, but have the additional soft skills necessary to adapt to a rapidly changing global landscape.