Consider this: a recent survey of employers conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 89 percent of employers say that colleges and universities should place more emphasis on “the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing.” It was the single-most favored skill in this survey. In addition, several of the other valued skills are grounded in written communication:
- “Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills” (81 percent)
- “The ability to analyze and solve complex problems” (75 percent)
- “The ability to locate, organize, and evaluate information from multiple sources” (68 percent).
This emphasis on communication probably reflects the changing reality of work in the professions. Employers also reported that employees will have to “take on more responsibilities,” “use a broader set of skills,” “work harder to coordinate with other departments,” face “more complex” challenges, and mobilize “higher levels of learning and knowledge.”2 If you want to be a professional who interacts frequently with others3—presumably you do; you’re in college—you have to be someone who can anticipate and solve complex problems and coordinate your work with others,4 all of which depend on effective communication.
So how does learning about writing in college help foster the skills employers need? Essentially, writing is thinking and expressing your thoughts to others. Employers want employees who can think and communicate logically, clearly, and appropriately to the audience and situation. Writing helps you become more conscious of these skills which, in turn, helps you hone them. Employers also want employees who can solve problems and who are resilient in attitude and action. As you move through writing processes, you will learn to develop an assertion in answer to a question or problem, and may move through multiple writing phases and drafts in order to finalize a piece of writing.
Although college writing itself can take many forms, such as digital text, proposals, reviews of articles, case studies, creative writing, and more, the information in this text focuses on essay writing. Essays are traditional college writing assignments, as they ask you to offer an insight or opinion on a topic and back it up with evidence. Analytical, logical thinking, organizational, and communication skills developed through essay writing are applicable to many work and life situations.
1 Hart Research Associates, Raising the Bar: Employers’ Views on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn, http://www.aacu.org/leap/documents/2009_EmployerSurvey.pdf, 9.
2 Ibid., 5.
3 If you don’t want to be as interactive, but you want to make good money, you’re better off seeking training in a skilled building trade like plumbing or electrical work. Frankly, a lot of plumbers make more money than a lot of your professors!
4 Hart Research Associates, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. http://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/2013_EmployerSurvey.pdf.