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Report reveals problems with college student career readiness


Thursday, January 30, 2014

During his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama reiterated the importance of providing students who are pursuing postsecondary education with the skills they need to successfully enter the workforce upon completion of their studies. However, a new area of concern is the career readiness of those graduates as they take on the rigors of the workplace. According to a new report, many college graduates are still experiencing difficulties coping with the demands and expectations of today's employers.

Ongoing struggles
To determine how students are faring in the workforce, researchers at Bentley University surveyed 3,100 high school students, recent college graduates, parents, higher education officials and business leaders nationwide. While approximately 35 percent of employers surveyed said recent graduates would receive a "C" grade in terms of career preparedness, many respondents added that they do not believe these problems lie solely with the students themselves. Some participants voiced concerns about the disparities between college curricula and the demands of the workforce, and others praised the work ethic and tenacity of many graduates.

"I hear the liberal arts colleges not sounding defensive, the way I think they did a couple of years ago," Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University, told the news source. "What I'm hearing is, 'We're all a part of the set of solutions'… This is an amazing new generation of highly talented kids who are prepared to work, they just work differently than the other generations did. They're willing to send out those emails at 2 a.m. because that's how they roll, rather than work 9 to 5."

The need for change
According to a paper published by the U.S. Department of Education, many states lack sufficiently rigorous assessment standards to prepare students for the realities of the workforce. In addition, the report outlined various shortcomings of current testing and evaluation methodologies. These include the fact that virtually all states have developed not only their own testing methods to assess students' career readiness, but also varying definitions of basic proficiencies. This results in the lack of standardized benchmarks that should provide clear expectations of whether students are acquiring the skills they need to succeed in college and their chosen careers.

It appears that improving career readiness is a multi-pronged task involving all levels of education, business, and students alike. "If all parties agree they're part of the problem – as the [Bentley] survey appears to suggest, at least to some degree – they should also agree that they have a role to play in the solution." More student engagement, hands-on learning and clear expectations are some of the recommendations to ensure that today's students are ready for the workforce.

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