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Laboratory and computer skills for employment-ready students in plant sciences

Brantlee Spakes Richter: University of Florida

<div>Undergraduate introductory plant pathology courses provide the first and often only opportunity most students have to learn critical content and skills in plant disease recognition and management. Many of these students matriculate to entry-level employment in a plant science field, where employers expect that their BS degree denotes foundational preparation for job requirements. Yet there has been little communication between employers and course instructors to guide course development, and many of the skills desired by employers are not emphasized in introductory courses or undergraduate curricula. As part of a larger survey to examine gaps between employer expectations and introductory course content, we asked managers of entry-level employees what skills they sought. We report here on specific software and laboratory equipment competencies desired by employers, and in an interactive poster element, provide viewers with opportunity to expand on the initial data set. Our original survey participants indicated that graduates should be adept with Microsoft Office and statistical software. Microscopes ranked first among desired lab equipment competencies, followed in decreasing order by autoclaves, laminar flow/fume hoods, balances, centrifuges, pipettes, thermal cyclers, and pH meters. With knowledge of specific proficiencies desired by our students’ future employers, educators in plant pathology can adapt courses to improve employment readiness among our graduates.</div>