More than Technology

By Kes Speelman

In the last couple of blogs, I talked about the different technology the Emergent Media Center (EMC) uses and expands upon such as Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D printing. However, the EMC doesn’t only allow students to learn and practice skills in a technical aspect, it also allows students to gain valuable life skills.

 “[The EMC] has helped me learn a lot about communication, especially with clients, superiors and coworkers,” said EMC’s Stern Center web programmer David Marquez. “It’s also helped me be more inquisitive about solutions. Every single time there’s something that’s difficult, I have new ways to figure out how to solve it by myself.”

Payscale, a provider of on-demand compensation data and software, and Future Workplace, an executive development firm, developed a new report that studies the skills gap between generations, titled Leveling Up: How to Win In the Skills Economy. In this report, 87% of college graduates feel that they are prepared to enter the workforce as soon as they finish their degrees, and yet only about half of the hiring managers in the study agreed with them. Many of these managers feel that these graduates are lacking in many essential life skills such as communication, critical thinking, and even teamwork.

“‘Graduates need strong communication and problem-solving skills if they want to interview well and succeed in the workplace, because effective writing, speaking, and critical thinking enables you to accomplish business goals and get ahead,’ Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace, said in a statement to Fast Company. ‘No working day will be complete without writing an email or tackling a new challenge, so the sooner you develop these skills, the more employable you will become.’”

Many other studies agree with Payscale and Future Workplace’s study. In a survey, conducted by the Saint Louis Community College, they determined that many life skills such as communication, work ethic, and critical thinking have far outpaced technical skills as the least present skills in younger generations. Part of the division is caused by the ever increasing emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) careers, as many of the highest paid careers are in STEM. According to Fast Company, this has led many schools to decrease the amount of english and public speaking classes so that students can take more programming and other technology classes.

 “I think working at an industry job will be different from [the EMC], just because it’s more of a student friendly environment since they understand we’re learning. You can learn hard skills in high schools classes, but you won’t learn how to apply those skills in a work environment, unless you work in that environment. At the EMC, you’re in that environment, but you still have that safety net,” said EMC’s BREAKAWAY programmer Cory Smith.

Many students at the EMC feel that the unique work environment here has helped them greatly improve upon these life skills. Students work, communicate and problem solve with their project teams and their supervisors on a daily basis in a real business setting, which is much more experience than many students have before they graduate.

If you practice communication [and other skills] between disciplines, majors, and other people it’s going to get better,” said EMC’s Olfactory lead 3D artist Tyler Bolster. “Just working with Olfactory VR, I’ve gotten a lot better working with programmers, and that’s made the project go a lot smoother.”

With any skill, practice is key to mastering it. Many classes allow students to learn and practice the technical skills that they need to master, but fail to allow students to develop the necessary life skills for the workplace. The EMC is a student-learning studio that has students working on real projects with clients and hard deadlines. This environment gives students the chance to improve upon their life skills, and become more prepared for life after college.

For more information on the Payscale and Future Workplace study, click the link below.

For more information about the Saint Louis Community College survey, click the link below.

Interested in working for the EMC? Click the link below to learn more about how you can work at the EMC and see open job positions for Fall 2017.