Humanities degrees the new “hot ticket,” according to Forbes

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A feature length article in Forbes magazine suggests that the liberal arts – oft-snubbed as “irrelevant” by corporate types and their buddies in politics – are in demand in the tech sector. As author George Anders notes, “software companies are discovering that liberal arts thinking makes them stronger.

The article notes that growth in software engineer positions is projected at a modest three per cent. Conversely, the tech boom is driving a huge demand for trainers, coaches, workshop leaders, and salespeople, all positions that require the skills learned in a liberal arts education.

CEO of Slack Technologies – makers of a team-based instant messaging platform for work – Stewart Butterfield said this of his philosophy degree:

“Studying philosophy taught me two things. I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.”

The Forbes story is somewhat anecdotal, by hints at an important reality: all types of university education, from liberal arts to professional training to hard science, have a role to play in economic growth. Policymakers should endeavor to provide balanced support to universities as they work to improve labour market outcomes for students.


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