The pandemic turned higher education on its head and revealed some important truths about the future of colleges and universities. Essentially, schools were forced to quickly adopt a virtual learning model that will continue to reshape the classroom and change the way we think about education. At the same time, students are calling on their schools to put together programs and solutions that will better position them to transition into the workforce. This is one area where many experts claim that higher education is falling short.
While tuition costs continue to rise and students are forced to take on more debt, a college degree remains a sound investment. Study after study has found that a college degree translates into higher pay, more job prospects, and better overall well-being. Someone with a bachelor’s degree will earn around $32,000 per year than someone with a high school diploma. This pay gap only continues to widen so that Millenials whose highest degree is a high school diploma will only earn 62% of what college graduates make. College graduates are also more likely to have health insurance and receive preventative care. Despite all these positive numbers, employers claim new graduates are not adequately prepared for the job market.
BCG, a consulting firm, and Google partnered to try and discover how businesses and schools could find ways to create a better pipeline for graduates seeking employment. According to their findings, “Preskilling—providing employees with the skills they require before they begin their career—is exactly what higher-ed institutions were created to do. Yet only 36% of the business leaders we surveyed believe these institutions give their graduates adequate training.”
That can make it more difficult for graduates to secure a job and cause a significant loss in productivity.
While most schools have career centers to help students, only 30.5% of them actually have partnerships with businesses. Without these important relationships, career centers tend to be ineffective resources.
Other countries are showing that it is possible to prioritize career skills as part of a degree program and better prepare students to enter the workforce. The Northeastern University campus in the UK has partnered with the tech company ServiceNow to introduce an experimental program. Participants will spend 20% of their time working towards their degree and 80% acquiring on-the-job experience.
According to Cat Lang, Senior Vice President of Global Education for ServiceNow, “Every company is looking for untapped recruiting options and ways to strengthen career development for their employees. An opportunity to get real workplace experience, develop in‑demand ServiceNow skills, and work toward a university degree is a perfect combination for someone starting or re‑starting their career, and for the companies that are looking to hire them.” These types of programs better serve students who want to earn experience and credentials as part of their education.
COVID served to bring this issue to the forefront and make it clearer that schools have a responsibility to form partnerships with businesses and focus more on students’ career preparedness. There is no question that a college degree is a sound investment that will continue to provide returns for a lifetime, however, there is more that schools can do to make sure that graduates can successfully transition into the workforce.