Workplace Readiness: Connecting Information Literacy with Jobs

May 15, 2012 | News

Employers know what they value, but most students aren’t in on the secret. As a result many graduates don’t have the skills needed to succeed in an entry-level position, according to a recent report by Woods Bagot, “University Graduates Don’t Make the Grade.” The most common concern of 500 business decision-makers interviewed for the study was that graduates would fall short of expectations, particularly in problem-solving, collaboration, written communications and critical-thinking skills. 

To address the issue of job preparedness, CUNY’s Office of Library Services held a Workplace Readiness seminar at John Jay College on April 27, bringing together library faculty and job counselors to hear employers from various industries identify the skills and mindset they prize in graduates.   The Workplace Readiness seminar was an outgrowth of CUNY’s Critical Thinking Skills Initiative. With funding from the Verizon Foundation, the initiative provided students with the opportunity to take online information literacy courses at two colleges. Students were pre-and post-tested using ETS’s iSkills exam. 

At the Workplace Readiness seminar, Jeffrey Holmes, senior principal of Woods Bagot, the global architectural firm, said that he hoped educators would rethink how they might prepare graduates to meet the changing needs of business, such as by placing a greater emphasis on campus learning spaces that foster critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration. Co-presenting the study results was Dawn Hoffman, senior vice-president at the Global Strategies Group, the firm that Woods Bagot commissioned to conduct the research.

Kate Wittenberg, managing director at Portico, a digital preservation service, said that since today’s workplace is information-driven, employees must be able to navigate, filter, summarize and communicate information. “Nowadays employees must be learners and innovators to succeed,” she said. “The new norm is thinking of your education as continuing in the workplace rather than ending after graduation.”

Brendan Molloy, director of recruiting for the accounting firm KPMG, spoke about team work, which has become an important part of the culture at most workplaces. Team work implies approaching group project with the know-how to find solutions, adapt to change and understand different perspectives—a higher order of critical thinking skills. Teamwork should not come at the expense of taking personal initiative. “Always have a take,” Molloy said. “Be prepared to challenge other viewpoints.” 

Nowhere are information skills as critical as in medicine, where life-or-death decisions are often tied to accessing the right information quickly. Yet a recent study in Nurse Education Today shows that nursing students typically complete their studies without learning how to conduct information searches efficiently.  “Some are making their first contact with online resources,” said Marisol Hernandez, senior librarian at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Hernandez teaches evidence-based practice, a research process to help nurses make judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about patient care. 

In conclusion, Curtis Kendrick, University Dean of Library and Information Resources at CUNY, said: “Librarians know that information literacy skills can be valuable in the marketplace, and this seminar shows us that employers understand its value, as well.” 

The Library and Information Literacy Advisory Council, which promotes information literacy learning at CUNY, and Gale, a Cengage Learning Company, co-sponsored the seminar.