“The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) surveyed 318 employers in businesses and non-profits about qualities and skills that are valued in recent college graduates. Almost all of the employers (93 percent) said that

‘a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than

 {a candidate’s} undergraduate major.’ The majority of employers said they wanted college students to place more emphasis in these key areas: critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings. It’s important for students to realize this early, since these qualities that employers so clearly want are things that they must develop over time. It isn’t enough to try to brush up on these skills before job interviews. Students need to have a career focus and a plan for developing these skills before and during the college years…..Even students majoring in engineering or computer science have to develop these skills, since employers hiring STEM types give preference to those with strong critical thinking and communication skills.”

The above quote was taken from It’s the Student – Not the College, written by Independent Education Consultant (IEC) Kristin M. White. You have probably noticed the frequent references to developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. The author is far from being alone in stating the dire need for this vitally important skill to be worthy of instruction in our institutions of higher education. As college-age individuals attempt to enter the workforce it becomes obvious as to what employers are looking for in regard to hiring new employees to fill available positions with their companies.

“Effective problem solving starts with an attitude that asks ‘why not?’ Why can’t we do a better job? Problem solvers are into continuous improvement. Problem solving is much more than just pushing around a lot of information…..It is also what people outside of academia call ‘critical thinking.’ It requires you to use information to form a plan of action and then to make decisions and take action, or talk to others who can help you implement the solution.”

{Problem solving}…..”requires character, good communication skills, excellent people skills, and good research and analysis skills…..detecting nonsense, paying attention to detail, applying knowledge, evaluating actions and policies – is essential for successful problem solving. In addition, a problem solver must be willing to take risks and to think about the big picture. The willingness to see problems and do something about them is critical to success in a career.”

 “Employers explicitly list problem solving as a key skill, but they do frequently mention critical thinking, initiative, adaptability, and leadership. These terms are frequently associated with employees’ willingness to improve themselves and their organization. Employers want workers who are optimistic about change. They want to hire employees who, in the words of one employer, ‘know how big the problem is, the frequency, and how long will it take to solve.’…..Your {job} interviewer may not use the term ‘problem solving,’ but he will be looking for it throughout your interview.”

These are the observations of Bill Coplin in his book titled 10 Things Employers Want You to Learn In College. As you can see, critical thinking and problem solving are crucial skillsets that cannot be ignored when charting your career path.

So the logical question to ask now is: What exactly is “critical thinking?”