March 7, 2022
While STEM skills are still in high demand, employers cite “soft skills”—including strong writing—as the most desirable attributes in a workplace that continues to evolve.
HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, March 7, 2022—Move over, STEM. Writing is making a comeback in the workplace.
While the focus in recent years has been on science, technology, engineering, and math, employers are increasingly placing a higher premium on the so-called “soft skills” that are essential in navigating the uncertainties of doing business during a worldwide pandemic. Experts say that STEM skills are still in high demand, but employers are rediscovering the value of written communication across all careers. In fact, in a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, nearly three quarters of employers identified strong writing as a top three skill when considering job candidates. The two cited most: Leadership and teamwork.
That’s no surprise to Erin Andersen, Ph.D., an assistant professor of English at Centenary University and director of the University’s Writing Collaboratory, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this semester. “For the past decade or so, much of the conversation has focused on the need to develop career-specific skills, especially in the STEM fields,” noted Dr. Andersen, who became director of The Writing Collaboratory in 2017. “Yet there is a growing recognition that effective writing is just as critical to success as the technical skills associated with specific careers. What we do in the Collab supports the growth of essential writing skills in Centenary students for their professional future.”
Businesses can take a significant hit from weak writing, according to inc.com. The publication reports that companies spend billions each year on remedial training, since poor writing can damage the public’s perception of a brand. Jason Fried, a columnist with inc.com, wrote in his book, Rework: “Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate. Writing is making a comeback all over our society…Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.”
At Centenary University, The Writing Collaboratory combines the top three skills named by employers—good writing, leadership, and teamwork— to strengthen student writing across all majors. Trained peer consultants provide free one-on-one tutoring in person and through video chats, as well as in group sessions and workshops. Dr. Andersen recruits student tutors across the broad representation of majors offered at Centenary, and the staff is racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse.
“Strong writing skills are important for tutors, but it’s not enough to be a talented writer,” she explained, noting that tutors also have the opportunity to participate in and present scholarly research on writing center pedagogy. “They also need to have compassion and a desire to do outreach. Serving as a peer tutor provides students with the opportunity to develop leadership skills in a structured, safe environment. Tutoring really helps both parties in the interaction.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic transferred much of The Writing Collaboratory’s activities online, Dr. Andersen has future plans to form partnerships with Hackettstown area middle and high schools for Centenary tutors to assist with English as a Second Language and other programs for multilingual students. “I’ve been studying some successful models of collaborations between writing centers and communities that are similar to Hackettstown,” Dr. Andersen explained. “At Centenary, we have a lot of education majors who are peer tutors and who have expressed interest in working with high schools and middle schools on writing center mentoring. I think there’s a lot of potential there for the future.”
ABOUT CENTENARY UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix provides an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world. The University’s main campus is located in Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township.