In recent years there has been a growing gap between the skills employers are looking for and the skills college students are graduating with. Employers believe that college students are lacking the 10 essential skills needed to succeed in the workforce.

These skills include communicating effectively; thinking critically to solve problems in order to create new ideas/solutions; applying quantitative reasoning skills to analyze/solve numerical problems; interacting effectively with people from diverse backgrounds; adapting to changing circumstances; performing professionally; engaging in civic life to improve society; collaborating and working in teams; demonstrate evidence of applied and integrated learning; and using information for decision making.

In 2019, the Society for Human Resource Management reported that 51% of its members believe that education systems have done nothing to help close the gap. While technology continues to expand and grow, employers are looking for graduates with human skills.

To combat the gap, The Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education (CPE) launched the Kentucky Graduate Profile Academy (KCPA) in October 2021. This collaborative program plans to focus on implementing the essential skills as learning outcomes for all graduates, to succeed in their fields.

Janna Vice, director of the Graduate Profile Academy, believes that the need for a college degree is drastically dropping.

“Research has constantly shown that the value of higher education or college degree is undergoing unprecedented scrutiny. Most of today’s jobs may require a degree, but less than a third of employees have a degree,” she said.

These skills “need to be developed from the first course to the last course,” said Vice, something the academy is working to achieve. 

Vice’s program is using a campus-to-campus approach, including eight four-year public institutes and four Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS ) campuses, where three members and an alternate will assess the learning outcomes. They will receive funding provided by the CPE to help complete and adjust the curricula to fully integrate the learning outcomes of the Graduate Profile.

Eastern Kentucky professor and chair of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Leadership Nicola Mason is heading the Graduate Profile Academy on the EKU’s campus. Mason is doing so with the help of Chad Foster, assistant professor in homeland security, and Starr Wentzel, director of first-year courses and learning. 

“First, the students will be introduced to the essential skills in their freshman seminar classes. Then once in their general education classes, they will begin to grow their skills. Lastly, they will master the skills through their major coursework.” Mason said when asked about the plans for EKU’s curriculum.

Mason said that KCPA also wants to begin implementing TILT, or transparency in learning and teaching into curriculum. The TILT project bridges “the gap between what is being taught and what students are learning,” she said. 

Since instituting components of the state-level program on campus, Mason has created a page on EKU’s website describing the program and the success they plan to see in the next three years. Her team also plans to begin a campaign on campus that will include workshops and seminars on TILT.

Other departments at EKU are also trying their hand at closing the gap. Associate Director of Advising and Career Services Darlene Stocker is making it her mission to help students get out into the field and work on essential skills.

“There is a large gap in soft skills between students who participate in an internship or co-op, and the students who do not,” said Stocker. 

Stocker believes that incorporating required internships and co-op into all college programs will help students improve their grasp and understanding of essential skills. Currently, all programs have the option to complete a co-op or internship, but not all require one to complete the degree.

“Currently we have 46 approved applications for the summer semester,” she said. “During the spring semester, we had 221 students participating in internships or co-ops.”

Although EKU and the state of Kentucky are doing all they can to help close this gap for their communities, this is still a nationwide concern.

EKU will host a Pedagogicon Conference on May 18th and 19th, 2023. The theme is, “Workforce and Employability Skill: Teaching and Learning for Future Careers.” Speakers will share ideas on how employability skills may be incorporated into the classroom. For more information on the Kentucky Graduate Profile Academy and how Kentucky is closing the gap, visit


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