WHAT DO the INDUSTRIES EXPECT of the COLLEGES?' JOHN XAN Howard College, Birmingham, Alabama
HIS question is difficult and fundamental. It strikes a t the roots of our educational system, and it challenges the purpose and product of our schools and colleges. I felt that I was not qualified to prepare a paper answering such a question, so I went for help directly to the men who are vitally interested in and dealing with this problem continuously. Several executives of industrial concerns in the Birmingham district have been inteniewed. Their ideas and recommendations make up the largest part of this paper. These busy men were courteous and generous with their time, and, above all, very interested and cooperative. Two or three have allowed me to read confidential reports, and copies of lectures they gave before students in different colleges. Others gave me complimentary copies of articles published in different journals on the same question applied to special fields. The industries look to the colleges for two things: (1) a certain type of graduate, and (2) cultural background and cooperation in some special problems.
and persistence in accordance with one's best judgment. When I say conditions of personality I mean condition of nerves, muscles, brain tracks and entire habit pattern which tends to determine the type of action. "Second, character is the slowly acquired possession of values, purposes, convictions, appraisals, judgments, discriminations, tastes, and loyalties which are in accord with the actual nature of things and with the welfare of life in general." This is a very inclusive definition, and it fits the type of character the executives said that the college graduate should have. In actual cases, however, we find every kind and degree of combinations of the various elements of character. The job of the institutions is to try to develop them to the fullest degree and in the best proportion so that a college graduate will be able to get along with all classes of people and have respect for the worth of the individual. Honesty, dependability, resourcefulness and accuracy, self-control and pleasing personality should be developed in accordance TYPE OF GRADUATE with the natural abilities of the student. All the colThe colleges certainly would have great difficulty in leges can do is to improve the habit pattern of the get. turning out; graduatewho would meet all the requireI believe that the character of a college student can meutsmentioned by the different executives, ~h~~ described a man who is a of ~ ~ ~ be improved ~ ~ or~ made ~ worse l by t his, experiences in inComptou, and E. Stanley Jones. Only a superhuman dust'y. The executives, superintendents, foremen, ~ the ~ techni. ~ ~ or other ~ leaders ~ l in industry t , are responsible for the furbeing can have the personality of ~ cal knowledge and ability of Compton, and the religious ther development of those elements of character which they desire. Thus, they can supplement and direct the and spiritual qualities of E. Stanley Jones. students as I know them do not measure up to such character development of the graduate in any direction standards. Only a few can remotely approach them. that is needed to meet the demands of the specific job Yet the institutions of learning are expected to imbue they have in mind for him. Qmlifications.-The ideal graduate as described by these students with all these qualities, a Herculean one of the men interviewed is a young man outstanding task. colleges, however, can develop the students' in grades as well as college activities, of broad scientific character, can help them acquire certain qualifications, and philosophical vision. As to the relative importance of grades and participation in college activities, opinand can instil in them certain attitudes. chrecter.-~thur E. &forgan, former president of ions vary, hut all want to see a t least average grades. Antioch College and now one of the directors of TVA A good foundation in English, especially speaking, writing, and spelling, is considered imperative. Good defines character' as follows, "character is the ground work in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and nation of two factors. a liberal arts background including such subjects as " ~ i ~ character ~ t , is that condition of personality economics, practical ~ s ~ c h o l o Usocioh'Y, , history, which expresses itself in consistently sustained habit of using one's whole resources with courage, decision, literature, management of labor, and even Bible is essential. As to technical training employers would 'Presented before the Industrial Chemistry section of the like some work in the industrial process in general, Alabama Academy of Science at the Spring Meeting, 1937. but they prefer to teach their specific processes. If the 1 This definition is given in a confidential report to one of the training is scientifically sound and fundamentally basic, large concerns in the city of Birmingham. 159
the graduate can be placed in a position fitted to his temperament and inclination. Obviously, the training which has been described cannot be accomplished in our ordinary conventional four-year college course. The technical courses are too crowded and too hastily covered during this specified time. The students need time to digest the material. They cram to get through, and, as a result, the educational product is not what industries expect. The cultural background required cannot be obtained in one or two courses in English but in contact with a cultural environment for four years. Culture is not mere knowledge of English literature or ability to enjoy the best writers, but a technic in dealing with our fellow men and enough knowledge to be able to discuss intelligently other subjects besides one's specialty, avoiding barbarous language and using good grammar, fine diction, and interesting expression. Since the above cannot be done adequately in the four-year conventional technical course, a modification is needed. The industries can help in this. They should offer a graduate course as a transition period in which the student comes in direct contact with the problems of industry. Here he should learn to operate machines, obey orders, prepare himself for a job in industry. The cultural background he has had, and he will be getting the practical knowledge. In chemical engineering, for instance, the students cover a five-year course in four years. How much better training the, students would have if they spent five years to cover the same ground, with the fifth year as the transition period in contact with industry. During the four years the student should be taught to understand human nature and learn how to control men. He should acquire love for study, not only in the plant but also a t home, reading technical journals and keeping abreast of his field. Attitudes.-The fundamental desirable attitude is that his education and his special training are only tools which enable him to learn faster from superiors or inferiors. No job should be too menial. He must be willing to start a t the bottom for the purpose of leaming, and not for teaching or finding faults. He must enter industry with an humble spirit and learn the system before he makes any criticism to the authorities.
He must realize that many years of experience are involved in the particular process he is about to criticize. He should be willing and anxious to learn thmgs for himself before he is able to direct others. The executives say in this connection, "The more direction you require, the less pay you get." A pull may get him a job, but only ability and proper attitudes will enable him to keep it. Colleges can instill in their graduates these attitudes but industry alone can develop them. This training can be easily started during that fifth transitional year, becoming more firmly fixed as the years pass. When a candidate is presented, the executives ask themselves, as they look him over, "What will be the ultimate destiny of this man as a salesman, as an engineer, as a technical research man, as an operator, or as a plant superintendent?" When they have determined where he fits they ask further, "Will he also make a good executive?" These questions can be partially answered by the candidate himself during that fifth transitional period in contact with the industry. CULTURAL BACKGROUND AND COOPERATION IN SPECIAL PROBLEMS
The second part of this paper does not represent the opinions of all of the executives interviewed. The majority were hesitant to express a definite opinion as to whether the college should provide a cultural background for the general employees and cooperation in some special problem. What cultural background can the colleges provide? Since their faculties are composed of men of special training in various fields, they should be able to give popular lectures, .thus giving the average layman an idea of what is going on in the world. Some industries, I was told, do provide such lectures. Why should the college specialists not give them? In addition the faculties should show willingness to cooperate in specific problems requiring very expert knowledge in such fields as higher mathematics, or in the translation of foreign articles. I do not mean consultation work, but a voluntary and spontaneous desire on the part of the college faculty to help industry keep its employees informed, solve sporadic and knotty problems, and generally cooperate in making an industrial community a better place in which to live.