Beyond the Skills Gap

Beyond the Skills Gap Preparing College Students for Life and Work

Matthew T. Hora with Ross J. Benbow and Amanda K. Oleson
cloth, 272 Pages
Pub. Date: November 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-988-4
Price: $62.00

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paper, 272 Pages
Pub. Date: November 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-987-7
Price: $34.00

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Pub. Date: November 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-989-1

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2018 Frederic W. Ness Book Award, AAC&U

How can educators ensure that young people who attain a postsecondary credential are adequately prepared for the future? Matthew T. Hora and his colleagues explain that the answer is not simply that students need more specialized technical training to meet narrowly defined employment opportunities. Beyond the Skills Gap challenges this conception of the “skills gap,” highlighting instead the value of broader twenty-first-century skills in postsecondary education. They advocate for a system in which employers share responsibility along with the education sector to serve the collective needs of the economy, society, and students.


So few commentators on the so-called ‘skills gap’ give serious thought to the purposes of higher education, or to the teaching and learning environments needed for today's students. The book goes beyond ideology to offer a deeper understanding of the challenges that face higher education institutions and faculty. — Michael Bastedo, professor and director, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, University of Michigan

Beyond the Skills Gap cuts through the agendas and talks to the people on the front lines to find out how best to provide the skills that both individuals and employers need. An important guide for policy makers and practitioners. — Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management and director, Center for Human Resources, The Wharton School, and professor of education, University of Pennsylvania

Hora delivers a breath of fresh air to the conversation about skills gaps. Focusing on Wisconsin, this research demonstrates the need to revisit how the framing of higher education, as well as teaching and learning, influence educational attainment and workforce development goals. — Valerie Lundy-Wagner, associate research director, Jobs for the Future, and affiliate researcher, Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment

The book successfully contributes new and productive information to ongoing debates surrounding the value and purpose of higher education. As such, it is a useful resource for researchers, faculty, policy makers, and employers interested in improving teaching, workplace training, and higher education policy. — Gregory C. Wolniak & Kimberly Maes, Teachers College Record

While economists usually dominate the discussion about the world of work, Hora is an anthropologist. His qualitative approach attempts to shed light on the messy process by which companies hire talent and people seek out work. — Chronicle of Higher Education

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About the Authors

Matthew T. Hora is an assistant professor of Adult and Higher Education in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a research scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. After several years of experience in organic agriculture and food systems research, Matthew received his master’s degree in applied anthropology from the University of Maryland–College Park. He then worked as a program evaluator of public health initiatives and STEM education initiatives before earning a PhD in the learning sciences from the Department of Educational Psychology at UW-Madison in 2012.

Matthew’s research interests are situated in the fields of applied anthropology, the learning sciences, and education policy analysis. In his current work he addresses three questions: What is the purpose and role of higher education in the early twenty-first century? How can we best design learning environments (organizations, classrooms, and digital spaces) that facilitate the acquisition of disciplinary content and transferable skills? How do cultural, political, historical, and economic factors shape how national higher education systems approach their roles in workforce development and advancing the public good?

Matthew lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his family.

Ross J. Benbow is an associate researcher with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison. With a background in political science, international development, and comparative analysis, Ross earned his PhD from the Department of Educational Policy Studies at UW-Madison in 2011 after conducting a yearlong ethnographic study of higher education reform in the United Republic of Tanzania. He has more recently worked as a writer and analyst focusing on the relationships between public policy, teaching and learning, and individual meaning making in domestic and international educational contexts, with a particular interest in patterns of inequity in colleges and universities.

Ross lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his partner and daughter.

Amanda K. Oleson, Wisconsin born and bred, is an education scholar particularly interested in research and policies related to PK–20/workforce pathways. She spent several years as an assistant researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in the Center on Education and Work after graduating with her master’s degree in Educational Policy Studies from UW-Madison, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and English. Amanda previously worked on research studies related to higher education reform and data-driven decision making. She is now a qualitative analyst at the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wisconsin.

A nascent connoisseur of coffee and an old bookshop enthusiast, Amanda enjoys the adventures that accompany reading, writing, and (lifelong) learning.

Table of Contents


Author Interview on Wisconsin Public Television

Blog Post: "Work Ethic and the Skills Gap" 

E-book available through online booksellers

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