Several weeks ago I published a blog entitled: “Better Paying Jobs for College Graduates: Why Higher Ed Needs to Do a Lot More Than Hand Out Diplomas.” My thesis was that there is a crying need for colleges and universities to prepare students today for high-paying jobs in the workforce. I then went on to list a number of points about what colleges are doing (or not doing) along these lines, and if not, what they need to do.
I also made the point that for a nation, it is deplorable for higher ed institutions to let students incur great debt for a degree that only qualifies them for low paying jobs, consequently, hampering them from enjoying the “good life.”
A lot of emotions out there for the failings of higher ed
Apparently, I hit a raw nerve and elicited a number of comments to my blog and tweets. I think it would be appropriate to share some of those comments and my responses.
From a college instructor: When I was in school, I was trained to be a subject matter expert. I am pretty good at what I do. That is, teaching my kids in my area of expertise. I have been doing this for a number of years. Why do I have to be concerned about some other area that I have no expertise in. Let me teach what I know. Let someone else worry about job preparation. Why do I have to worry about what they do when they graduate?
My response: Perhaps you need to be aware of what is happening today in the economy. In case you didn’t notice, the world is changing. Student debt is hampering their “good life.” Kids go back to living at home. People get married later and if they have children, have them later. Is this the great American dream or is it turning into a nightmare?
We need to break the cycle. We need to prepare kids for more technically-skilled jobs. The days of teaching kids to be independent thinkers without any technical skills has to be taken off the table. Corporate America is spending less time with entry level training programs. Therefore, students need to come to the party with something more than a degree. I say again, the world is a-changing!
From a student: My college really doesn’t have much of a career education center. I am really on my own figuring out what I want to do when I graduate. And if we are talking about internships, forget about it! NO help at all.
My response: Your college is letting you down. Somehow there appears to be a disconnect between your higher institution asking for tuition and ensuring that you can service college debt when you graduate. How are you going to make sure that you have a good paying job when you graduate? You want to be a productive adult. You want to live in your own place, have your own transportation and have enough money left over at the end of the week so you can enjoy the things that a post high school education should get you.
I think you need to have a serious conversation with your college administration so that they will provide the services necessary to ensure the above.
From a student: Figuring out what I want to do for my career is not easy. How do I review alternatives and where can I go for help?
My response: There are two parts to this question. The first part is preparation. Colleges need to be able to expose students to enough prospective careers so they get some type of feel for what they want to do after school. What does this job really mean, what are the opportunities for advancement and what type of long term career could it lead to? Not many people decide on a career and a company and stick to it for life, but it would be helpful to be somewhat knowledgeable so you have some idea of what you are getting into. I was at a conference a few months back and they said the average life of an employee at a company today was less than three years. Getting started, getting your foot in the door, is what is important. By gaining experience you are exposed to different career paths and different career alternatives. This will allow you to make career decisions.
So the first problem to be solved is: Does my college give me or allow me to gain experience so that I can start pointing myself in the right direction? The second part of this question is: Is it providing me with enough courses and skill development to be eligible to apply for such a position?
And finally, does my college have a placement program to help me get my first job or at worst, provide internships?
From a student: I read something about college graduates who mentor college students. Should I be concerned or rather get into some type of mentoring program?
My response: If your college doesn’t have a mentoring program, it should! It is tough getting your first job out of school. Everyone talks about networking. What better networking than undergraduates who team up with recent graduates. Take advantage of this program. Remember, it is easier getting a job when you have one. And a mentoring program makes this task easier.
I would love to hear from you and continue the conversation
Send me your questions or comments. Let’s begin an active dialogue. And maybe in the process, we can change how education and jobs are linked so that this country can be a more productive society that benefits everyone.
Want to dig deeper? Read our blogs on higher ed.
At Simon Associates Management Consultants, we have written several blogs on higher ed and how it should be doing more for its students. To read them, click the red bar below. Let us know if you agree or disagree, and what your thoughts are. I look forward to hearing from you.
Andy Simon, Partner
Simon Associates Management Consultants