Future graduates need to be more flexible

VANCOUVER — University curriculums are changing as employers want trained graduates who are flexible, James Elliot told a recent Canada Grains Council meeting here.

Elliot, dean of agriculture at the University of Manitoba, said there is an urgent need for changing curricula. Universities need to think in terms of the agri-food system and graduates have to have a wide spectrum of knowledge.

When students and employers were surveyed by universities, results were consistent across the country.

Employers said they were looking for interpersonal abilities, as well as skills in communication, computers, problem solving, business and leadership. They wanted students to be innovative, show technical knowledge and awareness, have time and self-management skills, and be socially aware of issues such as BST. They should also be committed to continual training efforts.

Prepared for reality

“We want to put a graduate into the market that is able to function in the 20th century,” Elliot said.

Post-secondary institutions are also looking at how they present material to students. Currently students learn almost exclusively from lectures. Elliot said there will be more of a team and multi-disciplinary approach. It will mean working in small groups rather than teaching large classes, he said.

Communication and computer skills are especially emphasized, and some universities are considering making it a requirement that assignments be done on computer rather than handwritten.

Co-op education and exchanges are also being considered, including exchanges with other colleges (such as two provinces sharing a horticulture program on the Prairies) or with other places such as Costa Rica.

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