On the Job: Talking about History Skills with Employers

AHA Session 3
Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Thurgood Marshall West (Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level)
Debra Humphreys, Lumina Foundation
What Employers Tell Us about Their Needs, Faculty Work, and Student Skills
Daniel J. McInerney, Utah State University and advisor, AHA Tuning Project
How Web Crawlers Help Shape the Vocabulary of Job Skills
Norman L. Jones, Utah State University and Lumina Foundation Degree Qualifications Profile/Tuning Advisory Group; Robert G. Sheets, George Washington Institute of Public Policy
Communicating Competencies to Students
David J. Trowbridge, Marshall University
Recent History Graduates in the DC Area and Their Experiences in Job Interviews
Lauren J. Cohen, Americans for the Arts; Matthew Wasniewski, Office of the Historian, United States House of Representatives; Samantha Dorsey, Gunston Hall Plantation
Ron Painter, National Association of Workforce Boards

Session Abstract

The work of AHA members involved in the organization’s “Tuning” project since 2012 has focused attention on a basic question: when students complete a course, a major, or a program of study, what should they know, understand, and be able to do? Historians ask this question to understand our own roles and responsibilities in higher education. And we want our students to understand what they take from their studies into further education, employment, and civic life. However, one topic that is critical in achieving our goals has not been systematically addressed in our annual conferences: how can we help our students build a persuasive narrative of their educational experience, an account that will resonate in particular with potential employers in the private and public sectors?

Faculty and students increasingly recognize the important proficiencies that post-secondary work in our field of study develops. But as members of (and advocates for) our discipline, how can we help guide graduates as they explain their skill sets to people outside of higher education? As AHA executive director, James Grossman, has written, “we are reminded regularly that success often goes to whoever can articulate the most compelling narrative” (“History Isn't a 'Useless' Major:. It Teaches Critical Thinking, Something America Needs Plenty More Of,” Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2016). The panel focuses attention on this critical, sensible, and practical question facing students who want to enter the private or public sector. How do we make our graduates more effective communicators of their own talents? Participants will discuss: the results of recent employer surveys; the effects of “web crawler” programs on the language of skills sets; new programs to assist bachelor’s recipients moving into employment; and the experience of history graduates in job interviews across a range of careers.

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