Although unemployment continues to drop, underemployment is on the rise. Nearly 6% of recent college grads can’t find a job, and twice as many can’t find an appropriate position. Don’t blame it on bad trade deals. CEOs and HR managers often complain they can’t find candidates with training in finance and analytics. Yet if asked when they last spoke to a local college or university to list the skills their organization is looking, they’ll shrug. “Who has the time?”
Business leaders need to make the time. Not only should they buttonhole the administration, it’s even more important to go to the faculty. If colleges and universities want to stay relevant, they’ve got to smooth the transition from education to employment. Allowing students to graduate without an understanding of the challenges they’ll face and how to meet them is not just irresponsible, but essentially malpractice.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating phasing out philosophy or dropping art history in order to churn out a generation of tech geeks or finance nerds. Liberal arts are important and, in any case, commercial needs fluctuate. Remember when degrees in marketing and business administration were the rage? Analytics, finance, coding and other “hot” fields will cool off, too. But until then, let’s keep an eye on real world considerations before, rather than after, the commencement speeches.
Yet tech skills are only half the story. When business leaders talk to faculty about the qualifications they need in new grads, they should also pull students aside to explain what it takes to build a career – no matter what field they wind up in.
• Why the luster of a 4.0 GPA pales beside the value of learning how to recognize opportunities and innovate solutions
• Why it’s essential to see clients as your boss and co-workers as colleagues instead of competition
• Why learning should become a life-long habit – not a 4- or 6-year ordeal
Mastering these strategies will create a platform that allows students to succeed in whatever endeavor they choose – after graduation or later in life.
The college years should be the first steps on the road to a fulfilling career. However, for many, they’ve evolved into an expensive waste of time. Instead for allowing the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world to drop out, let’s make college more relevant and get these geniuses to come work for us.
By Sander A. Flaum, MBA, Principal, Flaum Navigators, Chairman, Fordham Leadership Forum, Fordham University Gabelli School of Business, Executive-in-Residence, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University