Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

My arts degree is worth something, it really is!

Good news for all those poor saps out there that dropped tens of thousands of dollars on an arts degree that so far has only got them a job as a “barista”. (Is it just coincidence that a pleb who makes coffee morphed into a “respectable profession” right around the time that employers began realizing that having a degree meant you were nothing but trouble? Surely not.)

Anyhoo, it turns out that you’ve been saved!

Employers want what arts graduates have.

You would think with such a headline that this was going to be a piece on how awesome arts graduates are, wouldn’t you. But curiously, it’s not.

Surveys of the key skills employers seek in graduates continue to place so-called “soft skills” – like verbal and written communication skills, the ability to work collaboratively in teams and to influence others – in the top ten. But a 2016 report found that other skills – such as critical thinking, problem-solving, attention to detail, and writing – top the list of missing skills among job-seekers. The Conversation

Sounds pretty standard to me. Based on the headline, what we’re going to see next is how arts degrees tick all these boxes and then some. But then a strange thing happened in little old alternative-reality article land.

Developing these skills in young people will require not only a shift in subject matter, but also a change in how students are taught. Only one in ten Australian teachers have recently participated in professional development to help students develop generic, transferable skills for future work.

Wait a second? If you need to change how everything is taught that must mean that anyone who already has a degree possesses none of these required skills. Reading through there is exactly no mention of arts graduates being at the forefront of these desired traits. But at the end is a curious addendum. The article originally appeared at The Conversation. So I clicked over. It turns out the original headline was slightly different:

Lack of workers with soft skills demands a shift in teaching.

One of these things is not like the other.

Update: this morning an article appeared in my linkedin feed with the suspiciously similar title, Dear liberal arts grads: Your skills are essential — and employers need to realize it. It’s a plague!


James Massola – fake journalist extraordinaire.


The future is clear – Marry up, red pill boys!


  1. MarkT

    Critical thinking, problem-solving, attention to detail, and writing (in a way that makes any sense) are definitely NOT atributes I’d generally associate with arts-degree students of the modern era. The revised title is wishful thinking, true perhaps 100 years ago, but unconnected to current reality.

  2. A different Adam

    The ideal employee, of course, has both sides of the coin – they think critically and logically, and they have the spark of creativity to come up with new projects and ideas for clients.

    Creativity is not something to be undervalued, but I’m not sure it’s something that’s taught, nor am I sure that even if it is, it’s unique to arts subjects. Scientists can be pretty creative too.

    • MarkT

      True – but I don’t buy into the whole left brain/right brain dichotomy that sees logic and creativity as different functions. All logic when applied practically results in something being created, and creating anything requires you to stay in contact with reality via logic. The tragedy of the modern liberal arts education is that it encourages the idea you can have creativity without regard to reality and logic (hence the state you find it in). There are many political consequences to this too (hence a lot of leftist politics). This article at least suggests a degree of awakening to the need for change, if an arts degree is to become relevant.

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