Does college prepare students for work?

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A survey recently conducted by the University of Phoenix and Harris Interactive asked working adults whether they felt college had prepared them for their careers. Of more than 1,600 working adults surveyed, 22 percent said college does not effectively prepare students for the workplace. One-quarter of respondents said college does prepare students for their careers, while just 10 percent said it did so very effectively.

The survey went into finer detail as well, asking respondents whether all of what they had learned in college was relevant to their current positions or only some of what they studied. The survey found 35 percent of working adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher believed all or most of what they learned in college applies to their jobs. Conversely, only 13 percent said none of what they learned was applicable. The majority of respondents felt their college education had helped them in some way in the working world.

The University of Phoenix took these results to mean colleges must align their coursework more closely to the needs of the business world. However, there are many schools of thought on that issue, and none of them necessarily indicate the best path for recruiters and talent acquisition professionals to take. After all, changing a college curriculum is not within a recruiter’s scope. Instead, there are strategies the human resources community can use when interacting with recent grads that take this information into account.

Recruiting Recent Graduates
Recruiters may be interested in this information particularly as they begin to source candidates whose careers out of college or university are just beginning. While success in school is a valuable trait, and one many recruiters seek, it may not be the only predictive factor worth considering. Understanding many workers feel college only partially prepared them for the workplace also opens up unconventional recruiting opportunities. For example, someone whose major is not directly connected to the position in question may be just as equipped as someone who studied in that field. Throughout the recruitment process, it is advisable to accumulate as much information as possible about each candidate in addition to his or her academic record.

Talent management professionals should consider how to help recent graduates integrate into the workforce. While they are likely to have acquired some necessary skills and experience in college, there may be gaps in their understanding of what it means to work and how to be a good employee. A foundation of critical thinking skills and intellectual curiosity can be beneficial for any position, but shaping these attributes into good workplace practices may take additional training and attention.

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