DR. ARTHUR SCARRITT
Chair and Professor
Boise State University
Department of Sociology
What type of skills will young graduates need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?
Dr. Arthur Scarritt: The most important skill is learning how to learn. People are fond of saying that the jobs graduates will have do not yet exist when they start school. So students must have dynamic skills adaptable to a variety of workplaces. This includes being able to learn on the job what the job requires of you. And, in order to advance, you must have the skills to make the job your own. You must have the skills to negotiate a career. Employers know this. When interviewed about what they want in an employee, the same set of skills always come out at the top. And these are not specific technical skills that are all too frequently associated with college and specialization.
Employers really do not consider majors that much. Instead, they want dynamic employees with broad skills, workers who can: work in a team, problem-solve, communicate effectively, show leadership and initiative, and are adaptable. With a degree in sociology, in particular, students can be anything they want to be: we place students throughout the labor market, with our largest concentration at about 7% in social work. Sociology provides the ability to understand differences between people – race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability, for instance – and work accordingly. Sociology enables students to understand how individual actions contribute to collective behavior – and how to engage these dynamics effectively.
Are there any particularly good places in the United States for graduates to find work opportunities in this field after they graduate?
Dr. Arthur Scarritt: All bets are off with the pandemic and probable recession. Look to areas with strong social institutions and the infrastructure to weather crises. Sometimes this takes the form of solid social and economic investment, such as in more progressive areas like Minneapolis, some other Midwestern areas, and the coasts. Other times, recovery forms of growth can take the shape of wealthy, mostly white, people fleeing from areas they deem hazardous to zones they regard as “safe” – meaning white-dominant. While these latter areas may be more bucolic, their recovery tends to look polarized, dominated by lower-end service jobs.
How do you envision technology impacting this field in the next 5 years?
Dr. Arthur Scarritt: If you mean information technology, I really do not see much of an impact. The greatest impact will be an increase in precariousness and the demand for flexible labor. To engage this, the key is not to acquire technical skills, because these get quickly outdated and can be readily learned on the job – if you have learned how to learn. Rather, you can make yourself valuable to your employer through being a dynamic, creative, engaged, and passionate human.
PROFESSORS WEIGH IN ON CURRENT JOB MARKET TRENDS