Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Three Cheers for Rick Stephens and Boeing!! Art Rothkopf: Listen!!!

By Richard Vedder

While attending the higher education summit hosted by Education Secretary Margaret spellings earlier this summer in Chicago, I urged Rick Stephens of Boeing to publicly develop the elaborate job evaluation information he had gathered on the 150,000 Boeing employees in his role as the chief personnel officer of that great corporation. Specifically, I was thinking of actual rankings of schools. Jim Coleman forwarded me today's Chronicle piece stating Boeing is doing exactly that.

Rick was a fellow Spellings Commission member, and Boeing has information on job performance by college of graduation. While I have not seen the data, it would seem the sample would be large enough to make some meaningful judgements. If one looks only at employees hired over the past decade in the U.S. you probably still have a sample of tens of thousands. If Boeing draws from 500 universities, the average university would have perhaps 50 or more graduates who are in that group, and I think probably 200-300 of those schools would have a sample of at least 10. That is enough to do a decent evaluation. Which colleges prepare students for the real world the best?

To be sure, the Beoing rankings will not be perfect. Boeing is a science/technology oriented company, and probably does not hire large numbers of humanities, education, and fine arts majors. There is more to life than vocational success. Some schools may be good at providing jobs but are exceedingly costly to attend, or have low graduation rates. Uni-dimensional rankings are probably therefore not optimal. Still, this is a HUGE step forward.

CCAP partnered with forbes.com to enter the rankings business because we felt that the reputational/input based model of US News was not ideal. We wanted to have a vocational success component to our rankings and do --with Who's Who entries. But we think that component can be strengthened, and moves like Boeing's are very, very good.

I also told Art Rothkopf, the senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce concerned with education, that the Chamber should promote an expansion of what Rick was doing.Specifically, the business community itself should do an expanded, multi-compnay version of what Rick has done --encompasses hundreds of thousands of student graduates in all disciplines. Art (a fine fellow and another former Spellings Commission member): this is the opportunity for the Chamber to do something really useful to help companies, and parents, make more informed college choices. I will state publicly that we at CCAP would be glad to work with either Rick and/or Art or others in this regard.


Robert L Villwock said...

As a finance/economics undergraduate student, I would be pretty interested to see who (from what schools) the big finance companies are hiring. Just as much, I would be interested to see how my business school ranks among similar business schools in finding good jobs for its students.

I am sure the majority in my position would like to see this information as well.

I would imagine this idea of output based rankings of schools may scare a few administrations in the higher education community.

Very interesting idea.

Daniel L. Bennett said...

I applaud Boeing for going through with this initiative. The only aspect that is suspect is that Boeing only has plans to release the information to the schools on how their graduates have performed, from what I have read about the story. Boeing did state that the information it disperses will be confidential, meaning that the universities can relate the findings as they so choose. The end result will most likely be that schools that were rated quite high will boast about it, but the rest of the crowd will keep quiet.
Hopefully, this will lead to more related efforts by notable employers.