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Monday, July 2, 2018

Grads Not as Ready for Careers as They Think

Just 41% of U.S. college students said they feel “very” or “extremely” prepared for their post-college career, according to McGraw-Hill Education’s fifth-annual Workforce Survey. While far from ideal, that’s a significant bump up from the 29% who said they felt well prepared in the 2017 survey.

More men (50%) reported feeling “very” or “extremely” prepared for their career, while only 36% of women said the same. Overall, nontraditional students—here meaning those who didn’t enter college within a year of finishing high school—expressed feeling prepared more often (49%) than their traditional counterparts (34%). Students in technical and vocational programs were far more likely to see themselves as well prepared for their career than any other academic discipline.

Fewer than half of the 1,000 students surveyed were confident they’d gained the critical skills necessary to enter the workforce, such as complex problem-solving (43%), résumé writing (37%), and interviewing (34%). There is, however, something of a disconnect between stated desires and actions: Although 51% said they’d like access to more internships and other professional experiences during college, fewer than half reported taking advantage of the career services offered by their institution.

There’s a lot of daylight between students’ perceptions of their own preparedness and how employers see them. Although more than three-quarters of students were confident in their own professionalism and work ethic, the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2018 learned that just 43% of employers surveyed felt that recent college grads were up to standard in those areas. And while more than 60% of students felt their leadership skills were sufficient for the workplace, only a third of employers agreed with them.

Those findings dovetail with the results of Building Tomorrow’s Talent: Collaboration Can Close Emerging Skills Gap, a new study by Bloomberg Next and Workday Inc., a provider of cloud-based financial and human-resources management software. The study, which queried 100 U.S. academic institutions and an equal number of U.S. corporations, found that only 35% of corporations said new hires possessed both the hard and soft skills to perform at a high level in a professional setting.

There isn’t much encouragement on the horizon, as 84% of academic respondents said budget constraints were the biggest barrier to implementing plans to better prepare students for the workforce.