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Hora, M.T. & Blackburn-Cohen, C. (2017). Research Brief #1: Cultural capital at work: How cognitive and non-cognitive skills are taught, trained and rewarded in a Chinese technical college. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: The employability of college students is one of postsecondary education’s most pressing concerns in the United States and China. In response, policymakers are focusing on developing students’ human capital, in the form of credentials and cognitive skills acquired in technical colleges, so that higher education becomes more aligned with workforce needs. In this exploratory study we use a cultural capital framework to examine how a group of technical college educators and employers in a large eastern Chinese city conceptualize skills, cultivate them via teaching and training, and utilize them when making hiring decisions. Findings include a shared view that both cognitive and non-cognitive skills are essential, a cultural predisposition to lecturing but also a growing use of active learning techniques, and the importance of “cultural fit” during the hiring process. The data are used to advance a new cultural framework for conceptualizing college student employability, which indicates that improving students’ prospects in the labor market requires integrating non-cognitive skills development in technical college classrooms, and advising students about the cultural underpinnings of the job search process.

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