Looking at the article “Bring a professor to work” (Opinion, 22 February), once again I find myself reading a post about the need for academics to prepare students for the “world of work”. Once again I find myself reading statements about what this world of work requires of young people. Once again there is somebody who professes to know which skills this world of work requires. Once again academics are accused of failing in some way because they are only doing what they are paid to do.
Once again, and most annoyingly, no definition is provided of what a skill is – despite the use of phrases such as “generic skills”, “professional skills” and “life skills”. I have often challenged protagonists of “skills” development to define what a skill is. No one has taken up the challenge.
The academic world is awash with individuals informing distinguished colleagues of their failings while simultaneously offering solutions for those failings, often under the guise of “professional development”. Doing so simply mimics the tried-and-tested business model of convincing weak “consumers” of their needs while informing them of a product that satisfies those needs – a bit like slimming solutions in January.
Let’s be clear: there is no “real world” in which all employers speak with one voice. I would argue that employers collectively have no idea what they want from young people, other than an ability to be trained and developed in to some role. This “trainability” is inextricably linked to education, which is what we, as academics, do best. I suggest that we be left alone to get on with it in ways that are commensurate with our own moral code.