Does College Prepare American Workers?

Sean Ahern
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We all know the drill: go to college, get a degree, find a job. College certainly grants students a wealth of knowledge in their desired field, but is it enough to properly prepare them for their first major position? Let’s first cover some major skills acquired in school that we can all agree are valuable in preparing students for the workforce.

 

Many people argue that college is great for teaching academics, but doesn’t teach students all of the other valuable skills and qualities they need to be successful in a real job. However, if you think about it, college somewhat conditions students for the workforce. Students begin learning valuable soft skills (which are becoming increasingly more sought after by employers) without even realizing it throughout their schooling. The responsibility of meeting deadlines for multiple classes teaches time management and multitasking, for example. Many schools also heavily incorporate group projects, and leave the correspondence and communication methods up to the students to figure out on their own. Students learn how to divvy up the work, assign different areas of the work to those best suited for each topic, communicate through web-based team collaboration software, and also present projects in a professional manner.

 

Aside from soft skills, students learn generally sought-after hard skills such as writing, proofreading, and how to conduct research. Students also end up using applications such as excel and PowerPoint frequently, allowing them to work on spreadsheets and also present information to decision makers through well-constructed presentations. It’s important to note that we haven’t even mentioned the actual academic knowledge students learn from their coursework, but rather the various competencies that are learned passively while in school.

 

Arguably, students learn about their desired field in school, and also develop the accompanying work ethic, responsibility, and also several common technical skills, but what many colleges do tend to lack is the application of that knowledge through real world experiences. This is best accomplished through internships or “co-ops” which certain schools do require as a mandatory part of the college experience. A lot of students groan at the thought of having to take classes and also work a (usually) unpaid job, but they end up grateful having done so; students who work an internship in a relevant field are actually more than twice as likely to get hired out of school, according to Gallup.com.

 

Internships, as well as real-world application of skills in the classroom, are the missing pieces in a well-rounded college education for many schools. A fitting visual representation would be a triangle, with each point being academics, soft skills, and real-world experience. The only thing that students will have to learn post-education, however, is how to deal with two-hour commutes, difficult co-workers, and never-ending stacks of bills. Perhaps there should be a class for those subjects as well.

 

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  • Debra H.
    Debra H.

    Well said

  • Carol D.
    Carol D.

    Whatever happened to on-the-job training? There is only so much college can do.

  • Carol D.
    Carol D.

    @ Rich M., I totally agree with you.....a college education does not make you smart. Its about experience. I was once told that all a college education does is show that you are trainable. I in the middle of trying to find a job in the HR field and its hard. If I can earn a master's and on to a doctorate, how hard can it be to do the job of an HR Generalist. I also have 20 years of administrative experience with the federal government. Your so correct many of these employees play games and keep people such as myself guessing as to what they want or need. Whatever happened to selling yourself face-to-face. A good interview will tell the story. Lets just stop with the guessing games.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Rich M thanks for your comment. It's true that not every position requires a college education. When you are searching for a job and find one that's perfect except for the "degree", highlight your qualifications over and above the degree and let the hiring manager know why you would be great for the position despite not having that degree. Companies just feel sometimes that they get a better hire if the person has a degree. Shows dedication to their chosen field. True, experience should weigh more - at least in my opinion but that college degree can up the salary range.:-)

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    There's street smart and book smart. I'm 60, never been to collage and have applied to jobs that seem to me, to be more common sense than education. You may get that degree, but that always doesn't get a job. I've nothing against collage, but some collage grads don't seem that smart to me. As far as experience, I've got 40 years of it. It wasn't always the same job(I've done both part time and full times jobs.) It all depends on what they're looking for. It's a game they play and they want you to keep guessing as to what they need. Sending jobs overseas doesn't help either. Being laid off for over a year, myself, I can tell you, it's not easy finding a job. You just have to keep on applying and play the waiting game to hear for an interview and getting hired.

  • Shawn H.
    Shawn H.

    Nope!! Been out for almost a year and even entry level positions are telling me they're looking for candidates with more experience!!!! Ummm... ok!?!?!?

  • STEVEN MEYER
    STEVEN MEYER

    no

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