By Fiona Hansen on October 13 2016
Following my first article on Big Data in Campus Recruiting as part of the series What I Learned From #NACE16, I want to dedicate this article to the biggest theme of this year conference—Employers’ role in workforce readiness preparation.
It is undeniable that employers play a crucial role in addressing workforce readiness nowadays. Especially, in this ever-changing landscape where old jobs disappear and new jobs & skills emerge in a matter of a decade, students need to be guided to be prepared for what is coming.
Keynote speaker, Reshma Saujani, Founder & CEO of Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and prepare young women for jobs of the future, put it as, “You cannot be what you cannot see.” Leaders in the 21st century will need to know how to code. How do we make that happen? What skills do the next generation of change agents need? It is no ordinary job for just educators, but for employers as well.
Following this theme, keynote speaker Lindsey Pollack, millennial workplace expert, pointed out that career readiness is also one of the top 3 megatrends in the field, according to the result of her annual survey. Yet, there is an acute skill gap between employers & millennials’ expectation: Millennials want leadership training, while employers need strong written & oral communication skills.
With this reality, it is crucial for employers to work with educators to provide more relevant support around career readiness for students. Here are some ideas on how employers can make a difference in our workforce readiness:
1. Partnering with educational institutions to support training
An effective way to provide training for students is to partner with other educational institutions. Not only are employers able to give quality instruction to students, but they can also make insightful contribution to academic curriculum to ensure educators are teaching the most relevant and in-demand skills and knowledge to students.
Case in point:
* Chevron, an American multinational energy corporation, is a pioneer in arming students with critical skills needed to succeed in their jobs. Chevron focuses on improving instruction in the key subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and on helping provide the career and technical training that can lead directly to well-paying jobs. By 2016, Chevron has partnered with various domestic educational institutions and those in 8 foreign countries in three different continents. One of its most notable successes is the company’s contribution of $1 million to a project run by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Angola and the Angolan Ministry of Education. The program helped introduce entrepreneurship curricula in secondary schools. More than 29,000 students, 275 teachers and 70 administrators from 45 schools received training.
* Travelers and Travelers Foundation have provided more than $59 million since 2009 to initiatives that improve academic and career success, building awareness of and preparation for careers in insurance and financial services. They even set up Travelers EDGE (Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment) program to provide a holistic approach to education through partnerships with colleges, universities and community-based programs to increase the pipeline of underrepresented students who complete bachelor's degrees and are prepared for a career at Travelers or within the Insurance and Financial Services industry. The program is designated for middle school to career.
A strong partnership between corporations and educational institutes can be mutually beneficial for both employers and students.
2. Reducing the gap between employers’ and employees’ perception
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) asked groups of employers and college students similar questions about career preparation. As shown on the bar chart below, students and employers consistently did not consent to each other’s evaluation. The area where students and employers are the closest to being aligned is in staying current with new technologies. However, in other key aspects such as oral communication, written communication and critical thinking, students are more than twice as likely as employers to think that students are being well-prepared.
From this insight, it is necessary for employers to clarify their job requirements or qualifications that they are looking for from students. One method is to invest on a detailed and comprehensible job description. Another is to create the firm’s own quiz whose results reflect their set standards for each category. This way, candidates can take the test before applying for a job and have a good evaluation of themselves as a fit for their applied organizations.
3. Offering paid or credited internship programs to students
Employees do not naturally perform their jobs well; they need proper training and possible “trials and errors” phases to get used to their tasks. Offering an internship program to students is synonymous to training potential employees while they are young and eager to learn and explore.
According to the NACE statistics, 60% of 2012 college graduates who participated in an internship received at least one job offer, and organizations reported to have converted 58.6% of their interns into full-time hires for the highest recorded percentage.
The Florida International University reported that the essence of internships is to help students gain the real-world experience that all employers seek. When employers are asked what they are looking for in a recent college graduate, they say that they want an individual with critical thinking skills, excellent written and oral communication skills, the ability to work in a team, and above all else, real-world experience in their field. This skill set cannot be achieved by only spending time in the classroom and earning a degree.
Employers also need interns because interns challenge “the way [employers] have always done it” mentality and bring fresh, new ideas to the company. Interns are good at questioning processes and can often see a better way of doing things that a manager might not. Plus, young interns have no difficulties in using social media, computer programs, and other digital products – these are a piece of cake for young professionals.
At NACE 2016, the Rakuna team was exposed to a number of thought leaders in university relations who shared insight into countless developments and improvements to university recruiting. While What I Learned From #NACE16 series only scratch the surface of some of the takeaways from Chicago, we would love to provide more in-depth content on initiatives and advice to advance university recruiting.
If you are interested in content from any of these sessions, let us know, we will try to reach out to these speakers to invite them for our podcast or contribute a blog post to Rakuna’s blog on the topic you request.