Rich Flowers | Athens Daily Review

College students, including SFA, to make presentations at Texan

ATHENS, TX: The Applied Skills Competition, in which university students present possible solutions for a problem affecting many small city businesses is set for Friday at The Texan Theater.

Brian M. Murphy, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at SFA in Nacogdoches, said the Applied Skills Competition is similar to one developed in 2018.

“What we did last year over here at SFA, is try to say, 'Our students are ready for the workplace.’ The way we did it is to get some business professionals to give our students a problem that our students worked on for a full semester then came up with proposed solutions. So, it's not really us saying they did a good job. It's business professionals saying they did a good job.”

On Friday at 9 a.m. at The Texan, the top two students will be chosen from SFA, The University of North Texas and Southern Arkansas University. They will be evaluated on seven skills that employers say they're looking for.

Murphy said the format was changed a bit this year.

“What we did differently was look for a company that actually has a problem that they're currently dealing with,” he said. “The students worked at the three different campuses and worked with a business professional who can evaluate the work product of it. They got HVAC Manufacturing in Athens to be the company they're working with.”

HVAC officials said they also conduct research and development and have problems keeping highly-trained employees, Murphy said. The employees often leave for larger cities and the lifestyle they have to offer.

After hearing the presentations, HVAC officials will choose the best proposal.

“Hopefully, they'll be providing the company with some useful information, but it will also demonstrate that these are liberal arts students and they can do what a company wants,” Murphy said.

The Applied Skills Competition program is designed to help the liberal arts students demonstrate their readiness to move into the workplace when they complete their college years.

“The problem is, we have the students who have the skill-set the employers are looking for,” Murphy said. “But according to data, they don't hire them right away after college. That is what I call 'the paradox’.”

Murphy said when the liberal arts student get into the workplace, they rise more quickly than others.

By the time they're in their peak earning period, which is their 50s, the liberal arts students are actually out-earning students from other disciplines.

Murphy said he's pleased that the event has come together in Athens this year.

“We really have to thank Lisa Denton, from the Economic Development Corporation over there, because she's been super to work with.”