In a recent Inside Higher Ed article about a report on student and employer perceptions of job readiness in recent college graduates, higher education institutions are challenged to redesign their programs to provide more successful college-to-career pathways. The report includes findings from a survey by Chegg (which owns a service for high school graduates seeking college scholarships). Chegg surveyed approximately 2,000 18- to 24-year olds enrolled in two- and four-year colleges – and 1,000 hiring managers. Half of the college student respondents felt they were “very or completely prepared” for a job relating to their major. At the same time, only 39% of the employers agreed when thinking about recent college graduates they had interviewed. According to the article, Dan Rosensweig, president of Chegg, is sure that higher education’s slow response to technological advancements could be improved by working with businesses to redesign curriculum that embeds career development into it.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has started a LEAP Employer-Educator Compact initiative. This project brings together employers and higher ed presidents to work together on expanding and supporting long admired experiential education strategies, e.g., internships, undergraduate research, senior capstone projects. See the full list of LEAP Presidents’ Trust members and employers who have signed the compact on the AAC&U website.
The University of Kentucky’s UK Core Program follows closely upon the AAC&U’s LEAP principles, and we at UK can be proud of the attention our faculty (and the co-curricular team that supported their work) paid to the high-impact strategies and college/career readiness competencies important in today’s world. Some of these key issues were highlighted in the UK Core design principles (and assessed through the UK Core Program’s four learning outcomes):
- Using and articulating the processes of inquiry, critical thinking, and enhancing innovation through creativity
- Strong quantitative reasoning abilities, including statistical inferential reasoning
- Using sophisticated written, oral, and visual literacies as competent producers and consumers of information;
- Effective citizens in a pluralistic society; facile with and understanding of global, multilingual communities
The University of Kentucky’s President Eli Capilouto is part of the Bluegrass Higher Education Consortium which launched in January 2012. This collaboration of twelve higher education institutions is supported by Bluegrass Tomorrow. They are working together to reduce high school drop-outs, increase college-going rates and graduation rates in the Bluegrass as well as increase regional job opportunities. They are planning to meet on October 31st to discuss what an ideal employee looks like and what an ideal young adult (community member, college ready, workplace ready) in the Bluegrass Region looks like.
In the meantime, take a look at the Chegg report (the survey was conducted in the U.S. by Harris Interactive in August 2013), Bridge That Gap: Analyzing the Student Skill Index. An interesting set of questions were used to ascertain perceptions about success in business – called “Office Street Smarts” – which were ascertained by asking five unique questions:
- Can graduates make a persuasive argument to convince others to adopt their ideas?
- Can they write to encourage action or make a specific request?
- Were they able to communicate with authority figures and clients?
- Can they collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds?
- Can they complete a project as part of a team?
The report states that college students rated themselves higher on these workplace skills than did the hiring managers (see page 6). The problem, posited the writers of the report, rests with the college students themselves. They present as proof that students admit that, outside of schoolwork, they spend most of their time “socializing with friends” (49% of the respondents). 31% of the respondants admitted that they spent most of their time working at a job not related to their field of study or “working out.” Very few respondents chose to identify an internship or major/career-related activity to be how they most often spend their time outside of “schoolwork” (see page 7).
They conclude that parents and students should listen to employers and accept their recommendations for college/employer-designed experiential education opportunities to ready themselves for the workplace. Faculty can look at their course design and see if they have included “Office Street Smarts” in their courses or program overall to be confident that their graduates are workplace ready. Student support services staff can reinforce these competencies with regular events and communications about the opportunities available to students – or even help create new learning experiences for groups of students who might not otherwise have undertaken these career-readiness activities.