NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You'd think colleges and universities would have jumped all over the social media revolution and figured out how to leverage sites such as Facebook ( FB), Twitter and LinkedIn ( LNKD) to help graduates network with potential employers. They haven't. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, two key items are holding schools back in merging social media with job opportunities for graduates: privacy issues and weak training practices. That "achievement gap" couldn't come at a worse time for grads looking to crack the U.S. job market. According to the Washington, D.C.-base Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. unemployment rate for young college graduates is 8.8%, compared with 5.7% in 2007. Perhaps worse, the underemployment rate for young college graduates is 18.3%, compared with 9.9% in 2007. "Through no fault of their own, these young graduates are likely to fare poorly for at least the next decade through reduced earnings, greater earnings instability and more spells of unemployment," said Heidi Shierholz, an analyst at the EPI and co-author of The Class of 2013, a report subtitled "Young graduates still face dim job prospects." Having college career placement offices master the fine art of social media would help. The Downers Grove Il.-based NACE says colleges are using social media -- 90% of U.S. schools say so. But only 28% of colleges use it to counsel and teach graduates about good job search strategies.
"It's clear that college career services centers have made the shift to the online environment, yet there are a number of areas where they can be more effective and efficient in the use of social technologies," says Alexandra Levit, business and workplace consultant and Career Advisory Board member. "Career services professionals who understand how to harness the power of social media will have a major advantage in matching job-seeking students with coveted career opportunities." The group says the enthusiasm is there among collegiate placement professionals, since 63% say they are bullish on social media. But the results in using sites such as Facebook and Twitter to engage graduates and employers are mediocre at best. "Social media is the biggest change in communications for career services departments since email," offers Ed Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the NACE. "Now that social media has gained widespread acceptance, the next step for career services professionals is to use these platforms as two-way channels to expand their networks and deepen relationships with students and employers." For the record, most college placement professionals favor LinkedIn (60%) as the most effective job recruitment tool for college graduates, followed by YouTube ( GOOG) (33%), Facebook (32%) and Twitter (29%). But 30% tell the NACE they don't have the knowledge needed to use social media to help graduates, and another 32% say privacy concerns are a big turnoff for college placement managers and staffers. Another problem: Only 25% of collegiate career services professionals get university-sponsored social media training. "Colleges and universities should help their career services professionals to better leverage social media by providing specific training in areas such as online relationship building and identity management," Levit says. "It's imperative that career services professionals stay ahead of the curve in social media to best position their students in the current job market."