A group of multi-racial college students sitting around a computer

It’s not enough to merely have ideas, education, and experience. Students have to become better at documenting, packaging, and marketing their knowledge to decision-makers. Today, students have to become thought leaders and subject matter experts by creating intellectual property that solve industry problems, as well as gain influence within their profession.

Edward Brown of the American Academy of Advanced Thinking interviewed Wanda Benjamin, Job Readiness Instructor at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, to get her views on the interplay between student development and the changing needs of today’s workplace.

Ed: In your professional experience what changes have you noticed that have affected how students prepare for careers?

Wanda: Actually, there are several changes I can list:

  • Use of technology, especially social media to look for opportunities
  • Increased concern with the reputation of a potential employer (i.e. does the organization’s values align with my personal values?)
  • Students are increasingly focused on opportunities that allow for work-life balance
  • Increased interest in global opportunities and the willingness to travel abroad during school breaks to discover such opportunities
  • School organized trips locally, nationally, and internationally for students to meet with thought leaders and executives to discuss career options, trends, etc.

Ed: Interesting. What professional challenges keep you up at night or challenges necessitating you giving more time and attention to them?

Wanda: Many of us are plagued with similar concerns. Particularly, staying abreast of the ever changing job market, as well as determining ways to maximize these changes. In other words, where are the opportunities in all of this change?

Young woman using laptop on campus lawn, with other students rel

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Ed: Okay, aligned with that thinking. What trends do you see coming down the pike within career development and workforce education?

Wanda: I believe there will continuously be a need throughout one’s career to periodically re-access skills to ensure employability more than in the past. We can no longer be on “Auto-pilot.” We have to continue to add new skills throughout our career to take advantage of the changes in the marketplace. In a word-technology, technology, technology! Technology that delivers skills assessments, soft skills, and job training.

Ed: How important is thought leadership and subject matter expertise for job applicants trying to gain an advantage?  If important, how so?  If not important, why not?

Wanda: Thought leadership and subject matter expertise are important for job applicants because it is a way for a job applicant to distinguish herself/himself from the crowd.  Being a thought leader or having subject matter expertise allows the applicant to showcase their strengths and demonstrate in-demand skills/abilities i.e. critical thinking skills and analytical skills. If an applicant is not a thought leader or does not possess subject matter expertise, the following quote applies:  “If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.”

business partners making decisions

Ed: How do you see corporate and educational initiatives aligning?  In other words, what can each party do to ensure that their individual interests are being met, as well as responding to the needs of the market?

Wanda: Two words:  Collaborative Partnerships.  I have the unique advantage of having worked within corporations in field marketing, sales management and training.   Now I work with educational institutions to teach and train students for careers.  Sadly I often see a “disconnect” between what is being taught and how it is taught, to what is required and needed for success in corporations. To further compound this situation, the requirements placed on educational institutions by accrediting organizations are not always rooted in the realities of the marketplace.

How to resolve this disconnect?  An open, honest collaborative partnership between corporate managers and educational administrators is the answer. Corporations should seek out educational institutions to build and maintain collaborative partnerships to share insights on skills and abilities needed for career success, trends in the marketplace, business challenges faced, as well as opportunities for growth and improvement.  This will increase the pool of job ready employees (job ready meaning highly qualified employees with the necessary and NEEDED soft skills – primed and ready to contribute to organizational goals) for corporations. Educational intuitions likewise should seek out corporations to build and maintain collaborative partnerships to gain insights on developing markets, changes in the corporate environment, impacts of globalization, how to best prepare their students to be job ready, etc.

This will increase the placement rate of students obtaining jobs in their chosen careers.   A high placement rate is one critical factor potential students use to select which educational institute to enroll for career advancement.  Increasing student enrollment is a fundamental goal for the longevity and success of educational institutions.

In sum, collaborative partnerships between corporate and educational institutions equal WIN WIN.

Ed: Thank you Wanda for your insights.

Wanda Benjamin, Job Readiness Instructor at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, is also an independent trainer for The New Horizon Group, which develops, designs, and facilitates training modules for client companies to increase employee productivity and organizational efficiency and profitability.

You may contact Wanda on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/awandabenjamin2 or email: benjaminwanda108@yahoo.com