Preparing students for future work: are colleges doing enough?
College graduates not prepared for work stay unemployed for a long time. At the same time, directors of companies can’t hire the staff with the necessary skills. It is because participants in the educational process do not have reliable information about the labor market and do not hear each other at all.
Imagine the situation: there are three drivers on one road (young people, teachers and employers) who want to reach the same goal. There are three key points: admission to the educational program, acquisition of skills, job search. Maneuvers of all participants of the movement should be taken into account. But this happens very rarely. Drivers do not see each other, occupy adjacent roadways, and sometimes collide. As a result, all parties suffer losses.
While young people can't find jobs, employers can't find workers even for the starting positions. According to the statistical survey, medium-sized firms (with a staff of 50-500 people) usually have about 13 free starting positions, and large enterprises have 27 vacancies. In the countries surveyed, almost in 40% of cases, the availability of posts was connected with the absence of skills employers look for in college graduates. Most brightly this tendency is traced in Turkey (56%), India (53%) and Brazil (48%). In other countries the situation is not much better.
Who is responsible for this?
It is habitual to think that the educational community is not to blame for the current situation and the teachers do not bear responsibility for the results of their students. Not surprisingly, they do not have full knowledge about the outcome of training – a percentage of graduates who found a job in obtained specialty.
But if about 50% of employers think that graduates are not adequately prepared for work on starting positions, providers of educational programs are convinced that they cope with preparing students for the workforce perfectly.
The inability to find people with the needed skills on the labor market can become a quite serious obstacle for economic growth. Solutions at the intersection between science and employment can provide the fastest result among all possible educational reforms. Investment returns may be close to maximum.
The first step is the creation of a system for informing teachers and students about most in-demand skills for the future labor activity.
Coherence between participants of the educational process and employers
All parties understand their tasks in different ways. Teachers are focused on the qualifications that are perceived through educational standards, training courses, ministerial documents, etc. These things have no relation to the real work in which the alumni will be engaged. Qualification is a conversation between universities and state government. There are no other participants here.
Employers are interested in skills and competences, but they often do not know in which ones exactly. If administration of companies can somehow formulate the current requirements, it is difficult to predict what skills will be needed after five years.
Students are usually focused on education, acquisition of knowledge, understanding the theoretical postulates, and accumulating intellectual capital. From their point of view, all this increases the attractiveness in the labor market. Each young person has the right to choose the own strategy. But he can make mistakes, especially with the lack of information.
The best practices in the education field are based on the fact that science and professional training are two different things. Educational institutions provide graduates only with a basic set of approaches for solving a wide range of problems. An intermediate element should fill the gaps between knowledge and employment. But, unfortunately, the term ‘professional training’ is often associated with studying at technical college.
In captivity of the system
The education system is inert and does not correspond to the needs of the labor market. Graduates of universities and colleges are successful in science disciplines, can compile complex academic papers independently or use the leading essay writing services to get perfect marks. But there is a lack of ‘soft skills’. Educational institutions do not teach how to express thoughts in a form which is understandable for non-professionals.
One possible solution is a denser interaction between employers and colleges, for example, in the form of basic training departments at the large firms. In this case, students will have an opportunity to get acquainted with the work at the enterprise, and the employer - to test graduates in conditions close to real ones and to choose those who can cope with the task.
Part of the guilt lies not on the higher education institutions but on the labor market itself. When you ask employers what specific qualities they need, entrepreneurs usually begin talking about soft skills, i.e. features which are rather difficult to determine. And it is not entirely clear how to teach students such competences.
Sometimes, it's not about skills but about labor ethics. Young people starting to work in large companies often experience a shock: they face strict hierarchies where employees are required to obey the principle ‘you are the boss - I'm a fool’. Graduates are not taught anywhere to work in such conditions.
As for the history of business, the pendulum has swung several times between universities and corporate schools. In the early 1990s, the state education did not meet the needs of a growing business. Large employers tried to compensate for the lack of skills among young people through corporate training systems. In the late 90's, they returned to the idea of supporting state universities and colleges in which students can acquire skills that senior employees simply do not have.
In the early 2000s, the popularity of corporate schools increased again, but their goals had changed: the first task was the retention of knowledge accumulated by specialists over the years of work. Today, the movement towards state universities proceeds. The employer wants to control the quality of education at this stage. Therefore, we are talking about the creation of masters programs focused on a specific company. Firm's directorate should take part in its development.