College clueless

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I was humbled by my first summer job. I do not have the workplace skills I need. What do employers want that I am not getting in college?

This is a very insightful question, after just a few weeks in a summer job. The difference between your employer’s needs and your college training leaves a ‘skills gap’. You were not asked at work about the national trade deficit, which you learned in Econ 101. Your boss needed a letter written and found your English Comp skills sorely lacking. Read about the state of college grad skills and what employers are doing to bring employees up to speed.

This difference in skills learnt at college and skills needed to succeed professionally has always existed, most college grads do not possess the hard skills required for the working environment. Employers are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack basic skills such as problem solving, decision making and task prioritization. The college institution has ‘syllabused’ students all of their life and decisions have been made for them.

Studies have confirmed the unsurprising fact that colleges are not teaching the necessary skills for entrance into the global job market. One such study of 32,000 students over 169 colleges found that 40% of them failed to graduate with the complex reasoning skills required for today’s workplace.

Of almost 64,000 managers surveyed in a study, 44% said that new graduates are lacking in proficient writing skills. Public speaking skills were said to be deficient by 39% of managers and 36% claimed that students just out of college were found wanting in data analysis abilities.

The College Learning Assessment Plus test given to freshmen and seniors examines changes in critical thinking, writing, communication and analytical reasoning over their years spent at college. The differences in test scores depended on the choice of major, with STEM students faring better than those studying fields such as social work and business-related majors.

Employers are taking their own steps to better equip their new batch of recruits with the skills necessary for success. Training programs and simulations are among the techniques being used to improve problem solving and critical thinking, two skills that are challenging to teach. Onboarding programs and webinars are being rolled out to new employees to bring them up to speed and fine tune skills required for their new roles.

Corporate members at one state’s Convention and Visitors Bureau have started offering mentoring programs or job ‘shadowing’ opportunities to current college students in an effort to develop leadership and problem-solving skills not traditionally taught on campus.

Companies are working harder on employee retention as there is a growing inclination amongst the younger generation to job hop. The Center for American Progress claims that the cost of replacing an employee is 10% to 30% of the job’s annual salary, making it an expensive exercise for companies. In an effort to lower turnover rates, bosses at the Ford car dealer network are helping junior employees to craft a career trajectory within the company, and showing them that they are valued by giving them leadership responsibilities.

More transparency around promotions and pay rises can be relayed to new employees during the induction process. Clear expectations should be set regarding performance reviews and their frequencies. Making entry-level employees feel comfortable and coveted at the company alleviates the retention issue.

Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you…

John Green.

Written by Jacob Maslow, founder and editor of Legal Scoops.