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.