Conference offers insight into college transition

A panel of business leaders told educators attending our Bridges to College Success conference that they’re looking as much for transferrable, soft skills when they hire as they are for academic and technical proficiency. While not entirely surprised, attendees invariably said that insight underscored the need for giving students more opportunities to cultivate abilities like communication, problem-solving, organization and teamwork.  The Consortium co-hosted the conference with Pitt-Greensburg.

The panel discussion was designed to bring a real-world perspective to what it takes for students to succeed after graduation. Businesses and organizations represented in the discussion included Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Consol Energy, Excela Health, Westmoreland County Human Services, PNC Financial Services, and the American Association of Employment in Education. Bill Flanagan, host of Our Region’s Business on WPXI and Chief Corporate Relations Officer for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, moderated the panel.

Overall, the Bridges conference was designed to create dialogue between post-secondary and secondary educators around ways to minimize the difficulties many students face transitioning to college.

The Conference offered more than a dozen breakout presentations on topics ranging from challenges in admissions to test-anxiety, career trends, self-advocacy, making college affordable, understanding Generation Y students and a professor’s perspective on college preparedness. Additionally, there were facilitated roundtable discussions on various topics, including college level reading and writing, student expectations, and tutoring and other supports students can find on campus.

In addition to faculty and staff members from Pitt Greensburg, other post-secondary institutions hosting breakout sessions or facilitating discussions included Alderson Broadus Universty, California University of Pennsylvania, LaRoche College, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, St. Vincent College, Seton Hill University and Slippery Rock University.

Among insights from the discussions:

  • Though raised with technology, kids don’t necessarily have the digital skills college professors and employers require, like facility with Microsoft Office
  • Challenges that students from low-income families face adjusting to college are often different and far greater than for their middle class and affluent peers
  • Strong communications skills, including writing, are paramount both in college and the workplace and often are the tie-breaker between two competing job applicants
  • Employers want applicants to be able to articulate how past experiences will enable them to “add value” in a workplace or make them more competent for a particular job
  • The best students not only are conscientious, they’re self-motivated, proactive and seek out what they need to know