Perspectives on the Purpose of School

Given that employers have a strong vested interest in their future workforce, American business and industry leaders often have strong opinions about the role and purpose of school.

In 2005, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development surveyed over 400 New Jersey employers and business leaders on the purpose of higher education and to evaluate how well the state’s schools were preparing students across sixteen skill areas. The results revealed that employers cited teamwork (46% of respondents), social skills and critical thinking (32%, respectively), and integrity and honesty (30%) as the most important qualities they expected from educated students.

In 2007, the Collegiate Employment Research Institute conducted an investigation of past issues in Recruiting Trends magazine, a publication based on information supplied by hundreds of companies and organizations on employee recruitment. In this study, researchers examined which skills and attributes employers most desired in potential employees, and how these attributes shift over time (Gardner, 2007). For example, in 2002-03, ethics and integrity were found to be some the most important competencies for potential employees. The following year, employers shifted their preference towards graduates with better communication skills, personal attributes (work ethic, flexibility, initiative and motivation), teamwork, interpersonal skills, and learning (willing to learn continuously new skills & ideas). The 2005-06 analyses showed a growing trend in employers desire to find employees with a broadened geographic awareness and a global understanding of events, particularly as they pertain to the business and industrial sector.


Gardner, P.D. (2007). Recruiting Trends: 2006-2007. East Lansing, MI: Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University.

John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. (2005). Survey of New Jersey employers to assess the ability of higher education institutions to perepare students for employment. Newark, NJ: Rutgers, The state university of New Jersey.