STUDENT LIFE / JAN. 28, 2015
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Are Graduates Prepared for the World of Work?

Working in the social business world there has been a general sense that the Millennial generation have been lumbered with somewhat unfair expectations.  They’re labelled the digital native generation and are expected to bring a natural flair for the kind of social and technical requirements of the modern workplace.

A number of studies have suggested this is actually pretty wide of the mark, and that they need just as much development as the rest of us.  With the debt levels of graduates seemingly on a never ending upward curve, it is perhaps not surprising that people are asking whether graduates are leaving university with the right skills to thrive in the workplace.

Wharton Business School’s Peter Cappelli has conducted research into the topic, which will shortly be turned into a new book, and he talks about both in the video above.  Capelli reveals that the motivation for his book was the frequent complaints from the employer community about the skills gap between what they need and what universities are providing.

Capelli, however, believes that the accusations are misplaced, and that employers themselves should be shouldering their part of the blame for any gap that exists.  He suggests that employers increasingly want people that can hit the ground running and that entry level jobs that require good training to get people up to speed are an endangered species.

He believes part of the problem is in the perception of what university is about.  He suggests that it is not a means to achieving your first job, and should not be regarded as such, but with costs rising, it’s inevitable that parents and students alike will be doing their own form of cost/benefit analysis.

“A lot of very vocational experience in college, learning a lot of very practical things, in the long run I think is very much a waste of time.”

Capelli suggests that a big part of the problem is the huge variation in what universities provide to students.  When you hear policy makers talking about skills and training however, they tend to treat the sector as a uniform block, all providing the same kind of learning.  He believes, therefore, that talking in such general terms often does little to help.

Of course, the challenge, therefore, is to give students and parents the information to know which university is going to give them a good return, and which are not.  He suggests that taking a super specialised approach is not the answer however.

"If you happen to graduate in a year when there are no casino management jobs, what do you do? I think you’re probably worse off than you would be with a classics degree," he says. An interesting take away from his research is that extra-curricular activities are likely to be as influential to your employability as your studies themselves."Maybe the most interesting thing that I seem to be finding is that there’s kind of an emerging model where your employability after you graduate is driven by things that don’t have to do with your college education per se. They have to do certainly with the internships you’ve gotten. And there is even a network of vendors now that will give a recent college grad work experience in some field where perhaps they never majored in college or know nothing about," he says.

It underlines the importance of taking as rounded a view on your employability as possible.  It isn’t just the degree you obtain, but the experience you have, the connections you make, the social skills you develop.  All of these things will influence how employable you are when you graduate. I think it’s an interesting video that I hope you enjoy.

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