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Research Says Employers Not Sure Today's Students Ready to Enter Job Market

The Close School's Roy Carriker, phD, examines the skills that employers value most — and why internships and co-ops can help students obtain them.


February 17, 2015

By Dr. Roy Carriker

Hart Research Associates recently released the results of a survey conducted on behalf of The Association of American Colleges & Universities. The survey involved business owners or senior management of 400 employers, for whom at least 25 percent of their new hires were associate's degree or bachelor's degree holders. The survey also involved 613 college students. Among other factors, the survey examined the importance of 17 different college learning outcomes as ranked by both business executives and students.

The good news: There was agreement between management and students on the six most important learning outcomes besides a specific major:

  • The ability to effectively communicate orally
  • The ability to work effectively with others in teams
  • The ability to effectively communicate in writing
  • Ethical judgment and decision making
  • Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills
  • The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings

The bad news: The researchers found a large gap in the perception of how well-prepared students are in these attributes, with the majority of employers feeling colleges and universities need to do a better job of student preparation in these areas — whereas the majority of students felt they had received adequate preparation.

Why this matters:

The job market is becoming more competitive for graduates entering the workforce. Having knowledge specific to the technical side of a job opening is necessary, but no longer sufficient. Employers are looking for evidence the job seeker has or can demonstrate proficiency in the six areas cited above. In this regard, internships and co-op experiences are seen by potential employers as evidence that the graduating prospect has had valuable experiential learning in the employer-valued dimensions beyond specific discipline knowledge such as engineering, biology and accounting.

Even if you don’t have co-op or internship opportunities, talking with employers before you are in the job market can help guide your preparedness in these extra dimensions of employment.

Says Carriker: An entrepreneur friend of mine once told me: "Learn, earn, return." After 55 years of learning and earning around the world, I am returning.

Roy Carriker is a Teaching Professor and Director of Technology Entrepreneurship in the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship. He is also a School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems senior executive in residence.

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