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Evaluation of skills needed in college education by colleges of agriculture alumni from 1862 and 1890 land grant universities in Alabama and Tennessee.

The purpose of this study is to examine college skills Alumni from 1862 and 1890 Land-Grant universities in Alabama and Tennessee rated as essential to acquire in their college education. The data are from a survey of colleges of agriculture alumni who graduated from six land-grant universities in Alabama and Tennessee. IBM SPSS Statistical Package for Windows Version 20 was used to analyze the data. In rank-order, results indicated that student rated skill in oral communication, skill in problem solving, skill in written communication, skill in motivating and managing others, skills in personal time management, skill in setting personal goal as the most essential in their college education. Other skills rated as essential are, quantitative analyses skill, computer use and basic statistical techniques.

INTRODUCTION

As an extension of previous research (Zekeri 2004), the purpose of this study is to examine college skills former students rated essential to acquire in their college education. While in college, students are expected to learn skills that will earn them a spot on the labor market and also prepare them to engage with the world around them. Since the 21st century labor market is fast changing, increasingly global, and technology-driven, this study is undertaken with the assumption that college skills former students found essential in their college education would provide valuable information to university administrators responsible for curriculum design and educational reform in general. The more that is known about college skills needed to acquire while in college and the more they are taken into account in curriculum development and design, the more competitive future graduates could be in the 21st century labor market that is increasingly diverse and global.

METHOD

Data for this analysis are from a longitudinal study of former students from colleges of agriculture in six land-grant universities in Alabama and Tennessee. As part of the S-200 Regional Research Project (Occupational Career Path Paths of Former Students in Southern Land-Grant Universities), this study examined the background characteristics and factors underlying career choices of students enrolled in colleges of agriculture and closely related curricula. The major focus was on the actual labor market experiences of former students after graduation. The questionnaires, with explanatory cover letters and return self-addressed envelopes were sent to former agricultural students who graduated from the 1890 Land-Grant Universities (two in Alabama and one in Tennessee) and two 1862 Land-Grant Universities (one in Alabama and one in Tennessee). Of the 402 respondents, 109 were from 1890 universities while 293 were from 1862 universities.

In the questionnaire, alumni were asked "how would you rate the extent to which you needed or did not need to acquire the following skills in your college education?" A five-point scale was used as follows: (1) not needed, (2) somewhat needed, (3) much needed, (4) essential, and (5) Not sure. IBM Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20 was used to calculate descriptive statistics (means) and factor analysis of the skills alumni rated to be most essential to acquire in their college education.

RESULTS

Results are presented in Table 1. Mean scores for all alumni range from a low of 2.56 for "skill in basic statistical techniques" to a high of 3.52 for "skill in oral communication." Skill in problem solving (3.44); skill in written communication (3.33); skill in motivating and managing others (3.33); skill in personal time management (3.29); skill in setting organizational goals and objectives (3.23); skill in effective group leadership (3.13) were scored higher as the most needed than other skills. These graduates also found quantitative analyses skill, computer use and statistical techniques essential in their college education.

1890 and 1862 Differences: Need scores for 1890 and 1862 land-grant alumni were highly correlated (r =.91). However, 1890 alumni scores were significantly higher on six of the 15 T-Test at the .01 level. Two additional averages, were significantly different at the .05 level. The remaining seven mean scores were not significantly different. Results of factor analysis not reported here indicated that the factor matrices for the 1890 group score and 1862 group score were similar. For both groups, skills in public speaking and written communication loaded heavily on factor 1.

DISCUSSION

The purpose of this study was to examine college skills former students rated essential to acquire in their college education. The results indicated that there is high degree of agreement on the types of skills needed in college education in general. Skills rated as essential in college education are oral communication, written communication, problem solving techniques, motivating and managing others, and setting personal and organizational goals. Results of factor analysis indicated that skills in oral and written communication have the highest loadings on the first factor for both 1862 and 1890 samples. This is similar to a finding by the American Association of Colleges and Universities in 2006. In their 2006 study to identify the essential aptitudes and skills employers wanted college graduates to gain, skills that graduates said are essential in Table 1 correspond directly to the skills employers valued. In the 21st century, employers want their employees to have strong written and oral communication skills, work well in diverse groups, and have good senses of personal and social responsibilities. Also, the finding in this study is similar to that of Litzenberg and Schneider (1987). In their research, the authors reported that the major characteristics desired by employers were "interpersonal characteristics" and "communication skills."

On the basis of these findings, this research provides several important lessons for policy makers, deans and directors of resident education responsible for curriculum design. Those in charge of curriculum design should be sensitive to the skills identified by former students as essential to acquire in college and encourage their integration into the degree programs. Training in communication skills should be built into disciplinary course work. Despite the discipline knowledge and application expected of all graduates, future graduates are expected to demonstrate achievement in communication skills (ability to read, write, speak, and listen), critical thinking skills, and must be computer literate for successful job performance.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Professor Ndi Williams, Tuskegee University: We would like to thank him for his review and comments on the article.

AUTHORS' NOTE

Andrew A. Zekeri, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Department of Psychology and Sociology, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL 36088, USA

Pauline A. Baba, Assistant Lecturer, Department of Science Education, Faculty of Education, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Nigeria

REFERENCES

Litzenberg, K. and V. E. Schneider (1987). Agribusiness Management Aptitude and Skills Survey.

Washington, D.C.: Agribusiness Education Project. Zekeri, A.A. (2004) College Curriculum Competencies and Skills Former Students Found Essential to their Careers." College Student Journal, 38 (3):412-418.

Andrew A. Zekeri, Ph.D.

Tuskegee University

Pauline A. Baba

Kogi State University

Anyigba, Nigeria
Table 1. Need Score for College Skills Alumni from Alabama and
Tennessee Land-Grant Universities Rated as Essential to Acquire in
Their College Education (N = 402) (1).

                                              Total1 (2)   Mean Score
                                              Mean Score    for 1890
                                                             Alumni

Skill in oral communication                      3.52         3.59
Skill at using problem solving techniques        3.44         3.55
Skill in written communication                   3.33         3.64
Skill in motivating and managing others          3.33         3.35
Skill in personal time management                3.29         3.38
Skill in setting personal goal                   3.23         3.37
Skill in setting organizational goals &          3.22         3.38
  objectives
Skill in effective group leadership              3.13         3.27
Skill in project and/or program evaluation       2.99         3.18
Skill in public speaking                         2.97         3.19
Skill in negotiating employee/employer           2.91         3.08
  differences
Skill in finance and cost management             2.88         3.09
Skill in handling consumer/customer              2.82         2.85
  relations
Skill in computer use                            2.67         2.95
Skill in basic statistical techniques            2.56         2.86

                                              Mean Score    Mean (3)
                                               for 1862    Differences
                                                Alumni

Skill in oral communication                      3.48         0.11
Skill at using problem solving techniques        3.38         0.17
Skill in written communication                   3.26        0.38 **
Skill in motivating and managing others          3.29         0.06
Skill in personal time management                3.29         0.01
Skill in setting personal goal                   3.25         0.12
Skill in setting organizational goals &          3.16         .22 *
  objectives
Skill in effective group leadership              3.08         0.19
Skill in project and/or program evaluation       2.90        .28 **
Skill in public speaking                         2.83        .36 **
Skill in negotiating employee/employer           2.85          .23
  differences
Skill in finance and cost management             2.82         .27 *
Skill in handling consumer/customer              2.81         0.04
  relations
Skill in computer use                            2.55        .40 **
Skill in basic statistical techniques            2.44        0.42 **

(1.) Pearson Correlations (r) for 1890 and 1862 mean score is .91

(2.) 87 of the 105 paired means (total) are significantly different at
the.05 level. As a rule of thumb, any difference of 0.1 between paired
means has a significant T-test at .05 level.

(3.) T-test for differences between group means are significant at .05
level and .01 level (**) respectively
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Article Details
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Author:Zekeri, Andrew A.; Baba, Pauline A.
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2014
Words:1501
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