What Does the Future Hold for New College Grads?

What Does the Future Hold for New College Grads?

The largest private sector union in Canada, Unifor, whose Atlantic Region director is Lana Payne, wrote an essay that I recently read. She was lamenting what Canadian college grads will become. It’s not a pretty picture, in her perspective. I was left wondering how that compared to what American college graduates will be doing in the future after reading that story.

The promise of a bright future

As Payne said in her article the promise of a college education is supposed to be a brighter future. As she says “That post-secondary education was the guarantee that they would do better than their parents; be more successful.” But as any parent who still has a 20-something living at home with them will tell you, the struggle to find a job can be very real and the jobs that are available are not ones that will help retire the debt that the student and their parents have incurred.

Payne says that in Canada “the incidence of low-wage work is growing at a higher rate among those with the most education….Between 1997 and 2014 there was a whopping 60 per cent increase in the incidence of low wages among workers with graduate degrees.” In the U.S. the complaints are similar to those Payne expressed. We talk all the time about the “gig” economy, but the sad fact is that a lot of that is being driven by the lack of well-paying fulltime jobs that many college grads would find desirable. So what are the prospects for college grads in the U.S.?

Hiring in the U.S.

According to a survey conducted by SHRM employers in the U.S. in 2016 have plans to hire 2% more graduates than they hired in 2015, not exactly exciting news for college graduates, but certainly better than a decrease. The most likely position they will be hired for is sales or some sales related position such as customer service. Unfortunately those are not exactly the highest paying jobs. Steven Rothberg, president and founder of College Recruiter, expressed his dismay at this and said “Very few people go to a four-year college and are able to afford to take a customer service position upon graduation.”

According to a CareerBuilder survey, quoted by SHRM, the most desired college degrees in the U.S. are:

  • 35% Business
  • 23% Computer and information sciences
  • 18% Engineering
  • 15% Math and statistics
  • 14% Health professions and related clinical sciences

Employers however, are not enchanted with the students graduating and they blame the colleges.

Not Prepared

In the CareerBuilder survey quoted by SHRM many of the company executives feel that schools are not adequately preparing students for the world of work. They feel that colleges fall short in:

  • 47% Too much emphasis on book learning instead of real-world learning
  • 13% Not enough focus on internships
  • 13% Failing to keep up with technological changes
  • 11% Not enough students are graduating with the degrees that companies need

Instead they would like to see people trained in interpersonal skills, leadership skills, teamwork, problem-solving skills and communication skills. Another group of executives wanted “learning agility” and business acumen. My question about this is how much of this should be a college’s responsibility and how much should business be willing to take on?

Time to Step Up?

In my opinion, there are many more things that employers should be in charge of when recruiting a new student than what can be taught in a college. Thinking, writing, speaking, interpersonal, and to some extent the aforementioned “learning agility” should all be taught at colleges. I believe that many other abilities, including teamwork, leadership, and business savvy, should fall under the purview of industry.

How many companies help universities hire a manager who is currently in the field to teach business jargon in the classroom? In reality, high school students should be participating in this. How many companies put newly hired employees who have just graduated from college through a training program that teaches them business lingo and business acumen? Why should a college course instruct students in business language? Why do corporations teach collaboration to recent college graduates if they value it so highly?

Yes there needs to be some very important groundwork done in college, or even high school for that matter, but why doesn’t business step up and claim the responsibility for teaching skills needed for their business? It is time to stop complaining and take some responsibility for turning new college hires into the employees we want.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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