Graduates have trouble getting jobs without prior experience in the field. Jobs are already not easy to come by, but there seems to be a steady flow of graduates ready to enter the field. How ready are these graduates though? Are they ready to hit the ground running? How many will be hired right away? How many will apply to hundreds of jobs and only get calls back on a few? Now, let’s think about a very important factor we’re facing with the 2020 COVID19 pandemic. How many recent graduates are ready to enter the field during a global pandemic when the economy is under serious distress? In Spring 2020 at 6,120 students graduated from CU Boulder, ready to enter the job market when the economy was seeing “over 22 million people filing for unemployment”, (“It’s Not Going Very Well,” 2020).
What makes a graduate more employable? They need to be ready to hit the ground running. This is more important now than ever, but it’s always been one of the biggest setbacks, or holdups job seekers face. Students have to start thinking about long before they graduate.
Students don’t retain the information they are hearing as well without applying it. It simply does not matter how interested you are in the subject matter, if the modality for delivering this content is flat or lacks interaction, students will zone out and are likely to be more distracted by other things. This leads to a lack of stored or retained information. The brain is designed to process information and replace the stuff that’s not used all the time. Teachers have to find better ways of delivering meaningful content, but then there’s the repetition factor that needs to be practiced over and over again. The more you recall information, as well as applying it, the better recollection to that information you will have, (Why Students Forget—and What You Can Do About It, n.d.).
Students who don’t practice what they learn, will lose more than they gained. People are more than listeners. We have many other senses that contribute to the way we connect with something. “The more connections neurons have with other neurons, the stronger the memory”, (Why Students Forget—and What You Can Do About It, n.d.)
It’s quite fascinating to read about the example using an orange. We not only recognize the spelling as from the English language, but we connect with the smell, and the color. This gives us a variety of ways of remembering what it is.
The more connections we have the better. If a student applies what they are learning, while they are learning, the more they will strengthen their skills and develop a base of firm knowledge.
Many jobs require years of training and graduates are coming out of college and into the workforce lacking the applied knowledge and experience. Companies are in need of skilled employees and have high expectations. They’re “looking for fresh talent”, (Cutter, 2019).
Many positions are more technical and require more knowledge and responsibility, even leadership or management skills. Students who do not exercise these skills while they’re in school may suffer the consequences of struggling to get their feet planted which could lead to loss of work and confidence.
Making mistakes in the field can be more detrimental to a new graduate entering the workforce, than making these mistakes while in school. I have made some serious mistakes along my journey in industry. I’ve had to rough it and tough it and walk away with my head down a thousand times. I worked my ass of and still I found myself saying over and over again, “live and learn”. The industry hands you your ass from time to time, especially when you don’t even know what it’s all about to begin with. This is a problem in many areas of education. When a student can serve in a role that functions in the real-world while they’re in school, they’re also given the space to make mistakes and learn from them without severe impact. A peek into the field, learning about real-world expectations and undergoing personal trials and tribulations are what help us grow as individuals and teach us how to do things differently moving forward. When you make mistakes in the field you impact more than just yourself. You are impacting your coworkers, bosses, teams, and the organization. Consequences have a greater impact when you are put in a position where people expect you to have experience. (Molinsky & Pisman, 2019)
Students need deeper learning experiences to strengthen their memory. Why is it I can read something or hear something 3 times in a row, but then I forget it instantly? What the heck is wrong with me? I’m 39 years old. It’s not that I don’t care, there must be something else going on to distract me. I realized when I started teaching that I really was horrible at remembering names of my students. By a couple weeks in I would know about 4 names like we were buddies. The rest of the class I had to find creative ways of practicing names in order to repeat them until they were engraved in my head. I found that during my collaborative class I knew everyone in a matter of weeks. In the other course I was teaching at the time where there was less direct interaction, it took me much longer to remember some students who were not as active and outspoken as others. I finally found a good practice to practice saying names during attendance, calling on students during class, and sending out emails as well as writing down each student in a seating chart, I was repeating and therefore strengthening my memory connectors. This is why applied learning in multiple ways is even better than adding just one or two. When you mix things up you are exercising multiple skills that support personal and professional growth. (3 Brain-Based Strategies That Encourage Deeper Thinking | Edutopia, n.d.)
Employees expect graduates to be ready to hit the ground running with prior experience. People are so fast these days. Nobody is slowing down and big businesses are shooting for what matters most, profit. Business leaders are expecting graduates to come in and take the lead on big projects and expect they should have these skills, (Lindzon & Lindzon, 2015).
Colleges are not always preparing students for this and most coursework is independent with an occasional team project that requires dividing up the work. When the expectations are not met with real consequences, the priorities for an individual are different. If the organization requires progress, the graduate has to either “fake it til they make it” or face a possible devastation in their job search.
Lack of experience gives graduates a disadvantage against competitors entering the job market. As we know, the portfolio does the talking right? Well, what’s in the portfolio? How is student success measured? We can take a look at the grade book. We can take a look at attendance and participation. We can evaluate the quality, organization, and presentation of their body of work, and this will tell us how well they will do when they’re placed into industry with real world expectations and conditions, right?
Since when does a grade prove you can handle a serious amount of pressure and responsibility outside an environment designed to make space for making mistakes. Grades do not define applied skills. They do not say this person is ready to take on the workload, the deadlines, the pressures, and the liabilities. “Employers are wondering if colleges are challenging students enough and they’re not basing their decisions on grades anymore”, (“Why Internship Experience Is More Important Than Ever,” 2017).
Does our faculty have a responsibility to reach every student? Today with the demand for skilled employees right out of college, faculty and instructors are finding their expected mode for instruction is asking for more active teaching and knowledge for industry expectations to be delivered along with training skills. Employers are putting a new level of pressure and a call to action for change in the way we are training our students. Employers expect students to have practical skills and technical skills which calls for curriculum to align more with “workplace-specific competencies and skills”, (Should Professors Be Responsible for Their Students’ Workplace Success?, n.d.). Is this a result of a rapidly changing economy? Education is changing with the world, so the teaching much be redesigned to fit the mold and sustain reproduction of a strong workforce.
Can faculty take on more in an economy that’s suffering? Anyone who has taught as an Adjunct Professor can tell you, we are broke. The fact we don’t ever really know until the last minute whether or not our classes will fill and even run, yet we still commit to the countless hours to build and rebuild our course curriculum. How much do teachers really make when you look at the big picture, and all the time put in? How about now, in the 2020 pandemic? This is a real time of crisis where we are not only suffering as a nation, but our own government is cutting back the little bit of funding we were getting for schools, cutting back already small wages our teachers are barely surviving on, and again, putting our teachers last. Does this support the demands of the workforce? Does big business who can only focus on profits have the right to demand more from teachers who are getting less and less? (Faculty Face Uphill Battle Adapting to Needs of Today’s Students, n.d.).
3 Brain-Based Strategies That Encourage Deeper Thinking | Edutopia. (n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-brain-based-strategies-encourage-deeper-thinking
Cutter, L. W. and C. (2019, May 10). A Wake-Up Call for Grads: Entry-Level Jobs Aren’t So Entry Level Any More. Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-wake-up-call-for-grads-entry-level-jobs-arent-so-entry-level-any-more-11557480602
Faculty face uphill battle adapting to needs of today’s students. (n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/04/03/faculty-face-uphill-battle-adapting-needs-todays-students
“It’s not going very well:” The Class of 2020 searches for a job amid a pandemic that has crippled the economy. (2020, April 19). The Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2020/04/19/2020-college-graduates-job-search-colorado-coronavirus/
Lindzon, J., & Lindzon, J. (2015, October 1). Why Do Employers Expect More Of Entry-Level Employees Than Ever Before? Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/3051716/why-are-employers-expecting-more-of-entry-level-employees
Molinsky, A., & Pisman, S. (2019, April 11). The Biggest Hurdles Recent Graduates Face Entering the Workforce. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/04/the-biggest-hurdles-recent-graduates-face-entering-the-workforce
Should professors be responsible for their students’ workplace success? | Inside Higher Ed. (n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2020/02/26/should-professors-be-responsible-their-students-workplace
Why Internship Experience Is More Important Than Ever. (2017, August 23). CareerUp. https://www.careerup.com/why-internship-experience-is-more-important-than-ever/
Why Students Forget—And What You Can Do About It. (n.d.). Edutopia. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/why-students-forget-and-what-you-can-do-about-it