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Stefanie Scott (The Post-Crescent)/OSHKOSH, Wis. -- The continued shortage of technically skilled labor has spurred some students to forgo the traditional university route in an effort to find faster tracks, say officials at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

In light of the situation, area academics recently met with local employers to discuss the importance of a four-year liberal arts education and the benefits it provides to the work force.

"The ability to communicate ... work together and think analytically and a good work ethic," remain the core qualities of a quality employee, said Rik Warsch, president of Lawrence University.

"You want an education that's broadly based and skills that are fundamental and transferable," he said.

More employers are asking workers to take on a variety of tasks outside their normal duties, requiring they draw upon a larger knowledge base, Warsch said.

Also, the average worker changes jobs several times throughout life, often to a totally different career, he said.

David Gitter, president of M&I Bank Appleton, said he sees a liberal arts education as the solid base for which a company builds on.

"(Those graduates) bring the well-rounded background and we add onto it with technical and financial training," he said.

Samantha Belden, corporate recruiter for Aid Association for Lutherans in Appleton, has hired people for the skills they learned outside their major.

"I will hire someone with a history major for the call center," she said.

While a student may have a business major, a philosophy course may bolster his training, by requiring him to work with a team of peers on a presentation, Belden said.

"We're teaching students how to learn," Warsch said. A liberal arts education also gives students a chance to look into many career areas, before making a decision. More students are choosing the four-year liberal arts plan than ever, said Belden, who started recruiting about 15 years ago.

(c) 2001 The Post-Crescent

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