There is one particularly alarming statistic provided by AfterCollege— 83% of college seniors graduated without a job this past spring. We agree with Carpenter that the problem is not the quality of higher education—there is no way those 83% of graduates are unemployable, but rather that there is a gap in the process for those students to find the jobs that match their skill sets. As he identified in his article, what is often missing is “an education in career training.”
Career exploration is not the most intuitive process, and students need to actively learn about this process in order to succeed and begin building careers that will serve them throughout their lives. The Career Services Offices on college campuses are the teams tasked with assisting students in their pursuit. Yet according to the cited statistic from Millennial Branding, 61% of 4,000 surveyed students claimed that Career Services was “never” or “rarely” effective in helping them land a job. That perception seems a bit harsh and places a lot of fault with the Career Services Office. From our direct experience in working with university career service professionals across the country, we know there are many passionate individuals who are doing very valuable work to assist and develop students. As Andy Chan mentioned in his crowdsourced whitepaper “A Roadmap for Transforming the College-to-Career Experience,” Career Centers are not responsible for “placing” students with jobs, but rather are tasked with helping facilitate a transfer of knowledge about career exploration as well as exposing students to job opportunities. For students to succeed post-graduation, they need to take the initiative in their own job search process. To define the original problem more narrowly, there is currently an issue connecting students with the valuable information provided by the Career Centers as well as getting them to apply this knowledge properly in their job pursuit.
Carpenter’s proposed solution to this problem is that “colleges need to create, and require for graduation, a course in career training that would begin freshman year and end senior year.” Such a structured program would ensure that all students are exposed to this career training, especially atan early stage in their education, rather than when they are scrambling to find a job their senior year. We agree that this type of approach is fundamental in connecting students to the career exploration activities they need to succeed. There are many schools such as Wake Forest, Bentley University, University of North Carolina, and BYU (to name a few), who have created Career Exploration Courses to ensure students are ready to become professionals once they graduate.However, we aren’t convinced that the existence of these classes is enough to solve the student preparation issue. Just like any other college course, students are only going to get out what they put in, and they need to be constantly engaged in career exploration to capitalize come graduation. At uConnect, we firmly believe that student engagement in career exploration is the #1 factor to help bridge the gap between being a student and professional. Career education should consistently be top-of-mind for students and they should be actively gathering information about different career options. We hope that the establishment of career exploration courses is a start to build a foundation for students, for which they enhance with continued engagement of career-related activities “outside of the classroom.”