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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  • Shantell M.
    Shantell M.

    College is academic institution. There are 1000's of resources at college, University. With the price tag, know and use them.

  • Clarence A.
    Clarence A.

    Great advice

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @LeeAnn W - thanks for your comment! You could be speaking for many parents who are seeing their kids go through this! They never should have stopped teaching life skills in High School! Kids don't know how to maintain a bank account, keep a check book, balance a budget, etc. I have gone through this headache and heartache with my own kids. I agree that we should all petition our school boards and get these classes back in school. They aren't something frivolous but a true, real-world necessity. We, as parents and grandparents need to be strong and learn how to say no, also. I know I am guilty of it. I have helped my kids out of tons of jams - to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. I'm sure I'm not alone. So yes - I totally agree. They should be taught things like writing resumes and interviewing as well as dealing with difficult co-workers and bosses. Life skills!

  • Biju T.
    Biju T.

    Everybody learn for jobs

  • LeeAnn W.
    LeeAnn W.

    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. This is what my Grown son is struggling with

  • Claudia P.
    Claudia P.

    NO. Everyman learns on the job - including MD's

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    That would give more reason for illegals to come here and throw the whole economy out of whack. I think tuition is high to begin with. If they could lower the cost a little, it might make collage more obtainable to those who can't really afford it. But "free collage", I don't think so.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Peggy H thanks for your great comments. Do you think that Congress will pass a bill for "free" college? What do you think that would entail and how much do you think a college degree would be worth? It is a shame that no one pays attention to the rural areas - whether in KY or in any other state. I think that the previous administration was attempting to pass legislation to assist the rural areas with jobs but it never got through Congress. Personally, I feel that if college ends up being free that the degree won't be worth anything because everyone will go to college. I think it's great that your kids are learning that they have to work to pay their way - just as we did. They will be better citizens for it!

  • Peggy H.
    Peggy H.

    Rich M. I think if the government has to have their hands in taxing us every way coming and going then the government should get recruiter and propose some insensitive. The recruiter should have a grant from federal funds. The recruiter has to report back to feds in a year then should be in the helping to set laws or enforcement. Universities shouldn’t have to be the only entities responsible for insight. That’s how you end up with corruption. If Trump/Congress is truly all about helping...... Start a petition. I am just giving my thoughts. We have three in college right now. One couldn’t even go back his sophomore year because of financial aid. He is working and that company is paying his way. He has no time to come home to visit hardly but it will pay off. He does make it home for dinner at least every 3-4 weeks. Has about an hour drive one way. One has a scholarship but drives over an hour one way to a community college. However she wants to do what her older brother is doing because of the issues that come along with being told exactly how you will be rewarded. She had already been paying things at WKU when this scholarship was offered. She had her orientation done and a roommate selected. Starting paying for her dorm. Our children are all great. It just worries us that here in Kentucky the opportunity in rural areas are not getting jobs, let alone high paying jobs with a sense of accomplishment. If the Necor deal goes to Hardin County that still makes it over an hour and a half drive to be more than likely a laborer. Millenniums aren’t going for a job to work your butt off for the cooperate man and do it all again tomorrow. They are the types to work harder figuring out ways for the labor part to be done by a machine. All the factories in Louisville are going up like wild fires. However if you drive by those factories most don’t have a hand full of employees because logistics don’t need all laborers. Machines are already taking the new jobs that are supposed to be here.

  • Peggy H.
    Peggy H.

    @Congress. Give businesses a tax credit for employing students. Now on the flip side knock off student tuition bills. Let both benefit from the internship. Businesses should pay at least mileage for the student or sub minimum wage!

  • Peggy H.
    Peggy H.

    Clare F. I agree with the working part to an extent. Circumstances and many other factors should be put into whether or not the student works. If you have a full ride scholarship that you worked your butt off for and have stipulations like grade average. Then by all means homework first, work should come second. However the thing about a student having a full ride probably indicates that he/she knows that working is the only way the will get to their goals in life.

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    Nancy, Thanks. I love your two sentences. It's a "catch-22". In my cover letters, I always say "I'm willing to learn" and wait for an answer. If I don't get an answer, I move on.

  • Clare F.
    Clare F.

    For some free online classes check out alison.com. Great site, and has practical information!

  • Clare F.
    Clare F.

    For the most part, while getting a degree and a college education can be great, most colleges are not preparing people for the real world of work. We have to remember that colleges exist to make money, not necessarily to educate people to work in the real world. Would I discourage people from going to college? No, but I would tell them to go to work while in college, for starters.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Rich M thanks for your follow-up. It can be tough to find a position when you don't have the experience. Have you asked about OJT? I would make sure that the company knows how interested you are and that you know you could do the job with a little bit of on the job training. Some companies are willing to take a chance - especially if you show how much you really want to work for them. If not, then it's back to that old standard "how can I get a job when I don't have experience?" "how can I get experience if I can't get a job?"

  • Rich M.
    Rich M.

    Nancy, thank you for comment. Carol D. some companies don't do on-the-job training. They would rather you know what you're doing than teach you. I found that out in couple of interviews I had. If you don't have what they need, then you're out of luck. So how do you get that training, I don't know. I did take a bunch of assessment test on the Indeed site and do very well on some of them. Most of the test, I had no knowledge of and some of those, I did well on. So just keep trying your best.

  • 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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