Are Recent Grads Really Ready to Join the Workforce?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — One year into the so-called “real world,” Gigi Peccolo realizes there are things college did and didn't help prepare her to face.

“College, but really school in general, taught me how to juggle a lot of separate but important responsibilities,” said the 22-year-old Denver resident. “In college, you have to make sure you have all your homework done for each class. That same kind of logic extends to the working world, only instead of trying to get a good grade for yourself, you’re trying to help the business succeed as a whole.”

However, Peccolo also never learned the basics of email marketing or how to design a white paper in college, essential skills for for her job as a content manager at OneReach, a cloud communications platform.

“You have to rise to the occasion, and apply the skills you’ve learned to something new,” she added.

While companies are planning to hire more recent college graduates like Peccolo — with a quarter saying they will pay starting salaries greater than $50,000 — many employers still worry new college grads may not be ready for the real world, according to a new survey by CareerBuilder.com.

More than one in five companies do not feel colleges are adequately preparing students for roles needed within their company, and more than 45% of prospective new employers said they believe college places too much emphasis on book learning and not real world learning. Nearly 40% said they need workers with a better blend of technical skills and soft skills gained from liberal arts studies. College grads, employers said, lacked interpersonal or people skills, problem-solving skills, oral communication and leadership - perhaps illustrating that time investment in college has not paid off.

“As the essential entry credential for most career paths, a bachelor's degree is only part of the equation,” said Matthew Randall, executive director of the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania. “The other element is a blend of interpersonal and communication skills, accountability, appropriate personal presence and grit.”

Randall said after commencement, many college seniors are able to hit the ground running on day one of their careers, but there are others that fall short, lacking the “professionalism mindset” craved by recruiters and employers alike. Most often, these are the graduates that fail to gain any traction in the marketplace.

“We are seeing a trend where colleges, universities, faculty and parents are investing more time in coaching their students towards being a professional, regardless of their major or degree,” Randall said. “The end result is a graduate who is more motivated, wastes less time and provides a better work product — all results that can contribute to an organization's bottom line.”

That said, Laura Kassovic, CEO and co-founder of San Francisco-based MBIENTLAB Inc., believes it’s unfair to expect new graduates to be as competent as someone with five years of experience.

“But it is our duty to train and educate new grads so that they become as competent as their experienced brethren,” said Kassovic. “New grads are ready for the real world and want to succeed. There is no reason we can't teach them in two years what we learned in five."

“With high salaries and a growing market, new grads are more eager to learn than ever; let's not do them the injustice of underestimating them,” Kassovic added.

It was that supportive experience and learning on the job that mattered most to Matt Casady, who recently graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's in communications.

“I feel like college definitely pushed me and taught me how to solve problems, but I don't think it adequately prepared me for my current position at an online marketing company,” said the 26-year-old Lehi, Utah resident. “I did two different unpaid internships while I was still in school, and these allowed me to get the experience I needed to graduate with a job in my field.”

However, Casady said colleges can do valuable things, such as bringing in real clients for students to work with on projects.

“I think that's important for colleges to try and get their students experience working with real clients as much as possible,” Casady said.

“Otherwise though, I think it's important for colleges to always be looking at the current landscape of their industries, anticipating its changes, and constantly evolving their programs to respond to those changes or they'll become irrelevant,” he said.

 

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