At this time of year, children all over the country return home from college to the conversation.
“So how is school?”
“What are you majoring in?”
Fill in the blank.
“What are you going to do when you graduate?”
This is where it gets interesting. This is where the rubber hits the road. Approximately 20% of those in college are studying STEM or some professional graduate degree program or the pre- requisites for them. These students not only know the answer to this question they can further direct the conversation. Their discussion reflects the ‘language “of their major. There is a confidence in their demeanor and a familiarity with their options. Their passion breathes.
For another 20%, the family business, a lifelong hobby or interest or an experience usually with a mentor or influential adult provides the backdrop of a distinct discovery of what they want to do. Usually this group by senior year has had a work experience that has engaged them and triggered some degree of familiarity and comfort in their discussion of career next steps. Although maybe not having a distinct offer by Christmas, they await the spring semester usually either with multiple applications pending or a referral network being massaged for options. Maturing these “leads” is demanding but an adult can hear simmering passion in their pursuit.
For this approximate 40%, these students have had other resources than their own self driven pursuit and network of friends, family, peers, mentors, alumni and some professors who were solicited, cajoled and engaged by the students’ own determination. In most of these cases the student used few defined career advisory school resources. This is not because they were not offered. The pursuit of a career path takes a plan, patience and a determined thought process.
When universities transitioned with rising enrollment from elite finishing schools to a focus on the diploma for a broader population. Mike Rowe discusses college degrees Schools responded with Career Service departments. While many hires for these services did not have experience in the space, academics and administrators were converted or young graduates were hired to staff these departments. For many years the primary function was to host Alumni connections returning as recruiters. Schools were chosen for recruitment by companies based on their own employee legacies. This empowered the schools, as student populations grew, to charge for career services and job postings. With employers associating with regional and employee legacy relationships this cozy recruiter/career service department relationship has thrived for over 20 years. Like so many business and professional relationships like doctors and drug companies or politicians and lobbyists these mutual back-scratching alliances decreasingly benefitted the subjects of the original intent. Today, more students are graduating with degrees without significant career income potential and companies have seen decreasing retention rates for most of the last few decades.
Colleges are in the right place to provide on demand counseling but legally are refrained from recommending students to employers for discriminatory reasons. In this role proximity and in person relationships and trust can be critical but without the recommendation or matching last step. Standardized resume writing, career fairs and job postings are functions where there are limited benefits. When employers can identify a university resume by font and layout, this is not a differentiator. In a technology world, campus by campus postings and career fairs limit access and choices. Changes in parenting and technology (as we have discussed in past blogs see below) has had other effects on student outcomes from ineffective communication skills to lack of conflict resolution behavior and even signs of slower brain and emotional development. In short many students in the 60% without a career plan are ill equipped and not fully matured to make career decision at 22 years of age. Many students and parents believe that based on tuition levels the expectation should be a career ready graduate with the trophy of a diploma. This is just not what the educational industry has provided nor what most employers would argue is their primary role. The other changes of adolescent impact from parents and technology needs to be supplemented and experiences common to past generations like family dinners (without cell phones), teen job experience, expansion of apprenticeships and even unpaid internships to gain perspective and interaction.
Universities in the future will coordinate regional career education provided by employer sponsored resources. Employers will support earlier awareness and coincidental preparation and certification for students to make them job ready at graduation. Today employers and colleges are like ships in the night as stats show. Its timely for Universities to centralize functions to prepare students efficiently with best of class services and with employer produced programming designed to hire for long term career plans with benefits that appeal to today’s youth. More experiential programming is critical to provide teen jobs, apprenticeships and career education. Finally, supplementing the teaching of legacy life skills that have been increasingly vacated by busy parents and influenced by technology need to be broadly offered thru newly created and tailored employer sponsored programming to complement the academic focus of colleges.