Students wondering if they’re developing the basic skills employers look for can soon take a test to find out.
Ryerson has volunteered to participate in a pilot project next fall created by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The project evaluates the numeracy, literacy and problem solving skills of first-year and graduating post-secondary students.
Called the Essential Adult Skills Initiative (EASI), it aims to see if students are developing the transferable, non-disciplinary skills that were promised to them by colleges and universities and sought after by employers. The HEQCO said it’s voluntary for students to write the test. But, they are offering $10 to all test-takers as an incentive. There will also be a lottery with larger prizes.
“If we’re telling students these are the sort of capabilities they’re developing, we should be able to prove it,” said Greg Moran, HEQCO’s director of special projects. “We want to improve the quality of programs so we optimize what students take away.”
The project uses an international online assessment from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. First-year college students from 11 schools across the province will be the first to write the test this October, followed by graduating college students in February 2017. Five universities in Ontario, including Ryerson and York, will run the pilot next fall.
Moran said that all participating students would write the same test, regardless of their program. He said that the HEQCO expects architecture students will score higher on the numeracy portion than humanities students, for example. The online test, which can be taken from anywhere, is also adaptable, meaning the difficulty level changes as answers are evaluated. Feedback is provided immediately at the end of each portion.
The goal of the pilot is to see if the test accurately measures these practical skills. Moran added that, increasingly, employers are emphasizing more general skill sets and “soft skills” (communication, time-management, etc.) that can be applied outside of a student’s educational background. “[We’re] looking at generic things [that] apply to a variety of workplaces and allow someone to contribute to our society.”
According to Marcia Moshé, interim vice-provost academic, that’s why Ryerson volunteered for EASI. “Career-readiness is of major importance to the university, and is an area that we are always looking to improve,” she told the Ryersonian in an email. “We are always looking to find unique offerings for our students.”
Moran said he thinks students should want to have their skills and abilities evaluated.
“[You will be] better placed to build on your strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “It may provide you with information, as a graduating student, that you might want to share with employers.”