New Grads & Employability- Campuses and Employers Need to Talk

What I liked about this recent story in the NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/29/your-money/a-quest-to-make-college-graduates-employable.html?smid=li-share&_r=0, is that it very clearly points to a central conundrum facing both students, campuses and employers:  who is responsible for what?  What is the value-proposition that campuses place before students and their families when they make those high school visits?  What expectations are set up right then in the student’s mind about the connection, if any, between a major and a job?  What do employers think when they view resumes of recent grads who are social science majors?  Much of what I’ve been writing and speaking about deals with the dis-connect between these three parties.

Students are working harder to get good grades in high school to get into “good” if not “great” colleges and universities.  International students and their families base their decisions in much the same way as American students and families: What can we afford? Does the curriculum align with what my child is interested in studying?  But no one [except for those going into STEM fields] really has a clue about what employers are looking for or what type of coursework or internships will best prepare Jane or John or Lin or Oscar for their first job after graduation.

A reason this is all so complex is that the real moment when all the parties try to connect and make meaning is during the last year of college!  Perhaps a bit sooner if the student is studying, working or interning abroad in their Junior year [but less than 2% of all enrolled students have to worry then about that decision]. Think about this for a second:  this is 6 years after the student first thought about going to college.  A lot would have changed in the marketplace and likely within the student’s heart and head in terms of his/her career aspirations.

A 2013 Accenture report made a cogent statement: “Rather than simply bemoaning the inability to find employees with the skills required for available jobs, organizations must step up with new and more comprehensive enterprise learning strategies.”  Of course, campus faculty would agree that they certainly are not to be expected to do the job of preparing their students for the workforce.  The head of Accenture’s Talent and Organization group in North america states: “Universities are not in the job of vocational training [although that is part of the mission of our community colleges] but they are in the job of evolving…The magic lies in finding a model that’s appropriate for students to build skills, but palatable and effective for employers as well.

This is the heart of the dialogue  that needs to take place in the U.S. and around the world.

 

 

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6 replies »

  1. This is also a new concept for nurses. Recently, Chief Nursing Officers have noticed a large education to practice gap. Unfortunately with healthcare changing, it is difficult for universities to prepare the new graduate nurse. One issue with the gap in education is their ability to think critically. There is a disconnect between the new graduates knowledge and their ability to apply the information in a patient setting. There are definite contributing factors, but this is a new concept for nurses. In the past, new graduate were very well prepared to care for their patients.

  2. It is so envitable that this very question would come up. Every since my first college graduation, I have always felt that I deserve a better paying job. While in high school, I was always ask the ultimate question, ” What do you want to be when you grow up?”. When that question was answered and the goal is achieve, I found myself asking this question, ” What now?” Oh, I know I will go and get this nice high paying job to support my kids, pay some bills and etc… BUT, instead I found myself hearing employers say, “Well just because you have that degree, does not mean that you qualitfy for the job.” Funny, so I got a job and obtain the experience needed, but I never given the job.

    Many student’s today struggle with the fact that going to college for certain profession does not necessarily mean job opportunity. What do we do? How can we solve this problem and bridge this gap between students, parents, and employers?

    Ledora Alexander, Walden Grad Student

    • It is quite difficult because employees require experience, but it is difficult for new graduates to obtain this experience. It is sad that students put forth all of this time and money, but it may not make a difference in their ability to find a job. It is this way in most of the different disciplines. I remember when my husband graduated with his engineering degree, his first job paid less then when he worked in the maintenance department. I think it can be quite discouraging.

      • I think this “catch-22” has been something that all college graduates (and post-grads, too) have had to contend with over generations. The challenge at this point in the 21st century is that one has to be very flexible and adaptable due to the increased competition for jobs at all levels. Further, I think that we now have, for the first time, a global dialogue going on in higher education about the linkage of what one studies to the employability of students. I do not think that there has ever been a “promise” made about how a college education would ease the transition to the workplace. After all, the mission of the university is not to “place” students in the workforce—there are other valued skill sets that one gains from a college education. So it seems to me that the burden of making the connection between a degree & a job now falls much more heavily on the student.

  3. This issue of employment ready upon college graduatioation touches many people from different educational backgrounds. As I prepare myself for this next journey in my educational career, I find myself asking the question “will I be able to put my new knowledge to application in the classroom or will I be faced with needing additional education to compete in the world of virtual learning”?

    • I think the global knowledge economy requires that all citizens remain “lifelong learners.” It’s just not possible to remain pat with one’s level of education; there’s always more to learn and one has to also continue to adapt to changing workplace demands.

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