Senator George V. Voinovich addressing members of the Voinovich School Strategic Partners Group
Photography by Jenna Smith

Voinovich School Strategic Partners discuss skills and talents needed in workforce

Brittany Murray
May 1, 2013

As the semester came to a close, graduating students found themselves wondering what skills and talents employers were looking for when hiring. The Voinovich School Strategic Partners Group discussed exactly that during its 6th annual meeting in April. During that discussion, led by Dr. Hugh Sherman, Dean of Ohio University's College of Business, professionals assembled a list of three main characteristics they look for in new employees.

The first and seemingly most important trait was real-world, practical experience. Jeff Finkle, President and CEO of International Economic Development Council, stated, "Experience is crucial. We're not going to hire anybody who hasn't had good internships, good practical experiences, good field experience, and that's true throughout our whole industry."

Anyone who has recently searched for jobs in their respective field has likely noticed that most employers are looking for a candidate with 3-5 years of experience. While this is discouraging to new graduates, John Molinaro, President and CEO of Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG), explained that this is because "in most academic environments, those students learn how to individually create elegant and practical solutions, and when you get into the workplace, they have to work in a team environment to create applied solutions that work in that environment that they're in."

But students can gain these necessary experiences by completing internships and participating in extracurricular activities during their college careers. Senator George Voinovich stated, "The kids are learning it here by getting in projects and working with other people. They're gaining confidence in themselves and getting to see how it all connects with the real world … I learned so much through the extracurricular activities I was involved with, the experiences I had here were invaluable to me in terms of the career I pursued."

The second most important skill, Molinaro believes, is the ability to work in a team environment and creatively apply what you have learned. He explained that teamwork is vital because "innovation occurs where disciplines collide. "Most graduates have spent their college career specializing in single subject matter, but combining those knowledge groups is where we see the innovation is driving our society today. Companies need to have people who can work together to solve problems, as well as someone with the necessary leadership skills to bring the people together to get things done.

The third and often overlooked characteristic needed by today's graduates is creativity. A creative outlook can find new ways to do the same work more efficiently. Jim Mahoney, Executive Director of Battelle for Kids, said that in working with education groups in Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, and Ontario, he has noticed that even though these countries have reached higher levels of achievement, they're dying from a lack of creativity. He stated, "Higher levels of achievement is not enough; we want to create analytics around problem solving, creativity, integration of ideas, critical thinking … I hope that we never become so immersed in academic achievement that we forget that imagination, creativity, and all those things also need applied to it."

While all of these skills are important, Jeff Finkle, President and CEO of International Economic Development Council, explained that employers look for someone who not only understands their craft, and has the appropriate degrees and experience, but is also very passionate about the field they are entering. A graduate can be qualified with all of the skills and tools necessary, but if they are not truly passionate about their field and love their job, they will not be as successful.

Sherman believes that schools such as the Voinovich School have a very unique opportunity to take advantage of. He stated, "We face a very changed environment as a result of globalization and the revolution of technology … The skills, competencies, and knowledge that our students need to have is very different, and we have a responsibility to adapt to provide those skills so they can be successful."