Employers Are Not Thrilled With The Quality of Your Grads – Is Your President Listening?

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Prediction – In the future companies will rate colleges on how well they prepare grads for their first professional jobs.  Colleges that rate poorly will see a slump in enrollment, and their grads will have a harder time getting hired at the best organizations.

chronicle american publicOver the past 5 years, there have been a number of reports issued that showed students wished they had done more to prepare for their first professional jobs and even more reports that showed hiring authorities complaining that the grads they were hiring were not ready for the workplace.

Now, yet another study suggests employers are having trouble finding recent graduates that are qualified to fill positions at their companies or organizations.  The survey by The Chronicle and American Public Media’s Marketplace found that:

  • An astonishing 53% either answered they had a difficult, or very difficult time filling their positions with recent grads.
  • Nearly 33% gave colleges fair to poor marks for producing successful grads.
  • 28% of hiring authorities and business leaders felt the value of a bachelor’s degree had diminished.

Your president can either ignore this information, or see it as an incredible opportunity to reach out to hiring authorities to see how your college and career center can make it easier for companies to hire the right people, gain an understanding about why hiring authorities thought colleges were producing less then successful graduates, and more importantly, shore up the reputation and VALUE of the diploma they award successful graduates!

In this survey, employers acknowledge as other studies have, that grads were well versed in the knowledge required by their professors to earn their degrees, but they lacked basic workplace proficiencies, including adaptability, communication skills, leadership and the creative ability to solve complex problems.

It seems a bachelor’s degree is an important sorting tool for hiring managers but it’s clear from this and other studies that graduates are falling short of their expectations.

Hiring authorities look to your college as a supplier and will hold YOU accountable!

This is not a new issue.  Businesses have been sharing this frustration for decades.  College presidents need to be worried that business leaders sooner or later will take matters into their own hands and try to solve this problem on their own.

In fact it’s already happening.

In 2008, The Boeing Company created a system to rank colleges on how well their graduates performed within their company.  Imagine that!  Boeing was holding colleges responsible, just like they hold their suppliers responsible to deliver product to them.

To Boeing, there was no debate about who is responsible to get grads up to speed for their first professional jobs.  Their message to college administrators is,

“If you want your grads to have a shot at working at Boeing, you will have to deliver the kind of grad we want!”

Right now, the political and economic climate is pushing colleges to capture:

  • The earnings of grads/alumni.
  • How quickly after graduation grads get jobs.
  • If the job grads get are relevant to their degrees.

Now, here is a company that developed a formula to evaluate how quickly graduates were able to transition to the business world and provide creative, timely and relevant solutions to the issues their company was facing!

Boeing kept this information confidential and shared it with colleges that were interested.  As you might suspect, colleges that paid attention, listened, and adjusted their curriculums to accommodate Boeing’s thoughtful research and conclusions are seeing more of their grads getting hired at Boeing.   For colleges that could not change their cultures and get their faculties to adapt their curriculums, or simply ignored Boeing’s requests–those grads have to work extremely hard to even get their resumes looked at.

Businesses don’t like to make mistakes.  In their world, they don’t have time for oversights –so more and more of them will learn to work with the limited number of colleges that listen to them.  General Electric is doing just that.  The company concentrates its recruitment on just 45 US and 60 foreign campuses, from which it makes 2/3rds of its hires.  Any college administration that ignores this trend is missing out on a guaranteed pipeline that can place their graduates and give their students internships.

Whose responsibility it is to prepare grads doesn’t need to be debated!

As more companies adopt this technique, smart college presidents will read the tea leaves and understand that this represents an opportunity for them to not only increase enrollment, at a higher price, but to also help alumni be more successful.  Successful presidents will engage faculties and staffs to take leadership positions in these areas.

However, it’s not going to be easy!

Most faculty I talk to characterize this as an unsolvable problem.  In fact, I saw a recent quote by a faculty member who tried to make light of the situation by saying, “I understand that those doing the hiring in ancient Greece complained about the same thing.”

They don’t see this as their responsibilities to listen to what hiring authorities say their managers want.  Most fervently believe their jobs are to cram students heads full of the curriculum required to get a degree, but unless students are  STEM students, it’s unlikely the knowledge they picked up to qualify for their degrees and majors are going to support the day to day needs of employers.

So is it an employer’s responsibility to bring grads up to speed for that first professional job search?  Businesses don’t think so.

And neither does the University of Phoenix!

In a previous blog article I shared a new strategy that University of Phoenix adopted which resulted in an army of staff reaching out to business leaders to find out what they wanted.  That’s right, University of Phoenix has over 2,000 staff who have been reaching out to business leaders to find out what kinds of skills and knowledge they want in their graduates.

They ask questions, and then they listen!

  • What skills and knowledge do new hires not have that you want?
  • What kind of curriculum should we provide our students that would benefit you?
  • What traits, behaviors and attitudes are you looking for?

Is your college reaching out to hiring authorities and asking these questions?

So I have to ask you:  Who is your college’s client?

The University of Phoenix believes the companies that hire their grads are their clients.

Why do they think this?

Michael Mayor, Senior Vice President of Education to Careers at the University of Phoenix acknowledges that the student is paying Phoenix for the degree, and to most people would consider the student the customer, but, their research confirms the reason their students are going to college is to get great jobs, and launch career paths that will help them achieve their dreams.

To do that, they need to get hired.

Michael acknowledges management was in agreement with this philosophy, and was willing to give him VAST amounts of funding to field a team that could go out and “listen” to hiring authorities’ needs.  More importantly, management bought into the concept at the highest levels and reinforced the idea throughout all areas of the company, particularly with the faculty and curriculum designers.  That enabled the college to, over time, revamp their courses and curriculum to make them more relevant to EMPLOYERS’ needs, rather than keep up with academic trends within the industry.

Trust me, this trend is not going to go away.  

Business leaders will begin to EXPECT colleges to listen to them.  Their professional trade groups, conferences and news channels will spread this idea rapidly.  In fact, another report just issued by Accenture–their 2013 College Graduate Employment Survey– suggests that companies work closely with educational institutions to engage in curriculum development and create customized training and industry credential programs.

In order to position your college as a leader, you will need to get the president and his/her team on board.  They will help you lead the charge to approach faculty and curriculum designers to build a curriculum around supporting the needs of companies that hire your grads.

What’s at stake?

I’m convinced organizations that fail to listen to the needs of employers will find their enrollments drop because of the trend in reporting hiring trends of grads, and their grads and alumni will find it harder to get the kind of jobs they deserve.

Let me know if you need any help.

We’re pretty good at beating the drum and cheering you on!

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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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