Most Desirable Workers Have Out-of-Classroom Experience

Most Desirable Workers Have Out-of-Classroom Experience

Adam Cebulski

Senior Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

A joint survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education and Marketplace found that the most important qualifier for a recent college graduate isn’t grades, major, or even where they went to school, but whether or not the student participated in internships.

The survey found that two-thirds of employers require a bachelor’s degree and would never waive a degree requirement.

So a college education has become the baseline, and students are expected to tackle internships to stand out.

The Marketplace article makes it clear that some colleges are working hard to find these opportunities for their students, to make them better employee prospects by requiring internship experiences or partnering with employers to provide credit hours for on-the-job experiences. Students can (and often do) find internships and part-time jobs on their own, and all these experiences can enrich a resume and make it more appealing to graduate schools or future employers.

But the Chronicle article highlights an interesting discrepancy: That employers are expecting higher education to prepare graduates for immediate employment and that college and university leaders are balking at that expectation, saying that higher education’s purpose is to educate broadly, not narrowly prepare students for a career.

In my experience, the classes I enjoyed the most and still think about were fairly broad and not particularly practical to any one career—“The Ancient Novel” or “The History of Conspiracy Theories in America”—but class that mattered most to my employers was the hands-on training I received at The Columbia Missourian, which required journalism students to work in a community newspaper for class credit. Paid internships could bridge the gap between those mind-expanding classes and those technical-ability-focused job requirements.

What do you think? How can higher education and employers best prepare students for the workforce?

Adam Cebulski

Senior Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Dallas, TX