Bringing the real world into the classroom is so important to the future of your students. And last week we shared one way Suffolk University is taking action (find that post here). A sort of Career Readiness 101. This week, Career Readiness 201 as we talk about you and offer a helpful career-prep checklist, complete with on-campus practices and recruiter tips, too.
Opportunities to connect in person and hear our latest market intel:
- Join us in Paris Nov 8-10 at CIEE's 76th Annual Conference.
- Join us in Boston Nov 13-15 at PIE News Live.
Let us know if you'll be joining us (email@example.com).
Like you, the vast majority of students we talk to are playing the long game. Well before they even have a high school diploma, they’re thinking beyond university. They’re smart consumers and they need to know what their hard-earned degree, whatever the field, will mean for them in the market. Never mind that many of them are not sold on a major yet. They’ve been hearing for years about the rising costs of higher education. They understand ROI more than previous generations ever did. And their parents are all about that approach.
According to the National Center for Education, in 1980, the annual cost of attending university (including tuition, fees, room, and board) was just over $10,000, adjusted for inflation. Fast forward to the 2019-20 academic year, and that that bottom line had ballooned 180 percent to nearly $29,000. This is the story your prospective students have grown up hearing. For decades, everyone, university administrators and families, have been wringing their hands about the rising costs and yet, not a thing has been done about it.
For families, the reality is they’re looking at an average debt for a four-year Bachelor’s degree of $34,700 per the Education Data Initiative. And while the standard repayment term for federal loans is 10 years, it can take up to 30 or more years for more than a few students to pay off these loans. You can see their concern.
Some of us optimistically thought the rise of online education would bring costs down and become a reliable source of revenue for universities and a powerful educational avenue for students. The reality: yes, a growing source of revenue, but the cost to produce truly effective online education that carries students forward with all the tools and supports, is fairly pricey to produce. And the low quality stuff really does not achieve the educational outcomes, so students pay for an ineffective degree - a credential that does not meet real-world employer needs. (See our blog post here about the perceived value of online degrees)
Of course, these are tuition numbers you’ve thought about many times. And they’re all over the news right now as student loan repayments will soon be back on after a long pandemic pause. Smart students want to know the kind of return they’re going to get on their investment, and they’re looking to you to provide an attractive answer.
So, what is your answer?
Read on for a checklist of essential ways to help ensure your campus helps prep students for the careers they’re hoping higher ed will lead them to. And yes, we’ve included pro-tips for you recruiters. Read on...
Let’s be honest, if any of the below workforce readiness initiatives surprise you, then frankly we’d be surprised. Career expectations are central to all students except the lucky few, though ROI is on their minds, too.
Use this list to remind you of the efforts that matter to your career-minded constituents. Is your university doing them? If not, take action.
Also, recognize that while your prospective families very much know to ask about career outcomes, they don’t necessarily know how this relates to the student experience outside of the career center and choice in major. This goes double for first-generation students. The onus is on you to show them. And by all means, make it crystal clear to prospects that these really important services are available and work well. Communicating about your career-prepping programs will help your institution stand out.
Your Workforce Readiness Checklist
This checklist will inform how you formulate more powerful marketing differentiators.
Curricula Alignment: Regularly update curricula to incorporate the latest trends, technologies, and job market demands and ensure academic programs align with industry needs. Incorporate real-world projects into the curriculum, enabling students to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. Help them learn to adapt rather than simply spout unrealistic best practices.
Recruitment tip: Illustrate your approach using real classroom examples across degree programs.
- Career Advising Services: Enhance and expand career services beyond resume workshops. Provide challenging mock interviews and interview preparation. Provide job placement assistance and real-time job interview counseling. Give your students someone to talk to as they progress through the interview process so that they make it to the final round with powerful stories to tell. Help them win the job. Promote these services hard. Far too few current students take advantage of them due to lack of awareness of the services or lack or understanding about how important this practice work is to their success.
Recruitment tip: Let prospective students know how accessible this department is to them and offer examples of recent students who have used ￼career advising to their great benefit.
- Skill-Building Workshops: Offer workshops and courses that focus on practical skills for a range of popular (or specialized) career paths. Popluar paths such as digital marketing, data analysis, coding, project management, and specialized paths such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, chemical engineering and so many others.
Recruitment tip: Get your professors involved and let students know these ￼life readiness skills programs are available, how often, and at what additional cost (which is hopefully minimal to free).
- Soft Skills Development: Sure they need to know how to use the Microsoft Office suite, but emphasize the development of soft skills like communication, teamwork, adaptability, and problem-solving, which are highly valued by employers.
Recruitment tip: Students may not be thinking in these terms, but they’re so important. Highlight them as a feature of your system.
- Internship + Co-op Opportunities: Facilitate internships, co-op programs, and experiential learning opportunities that connect students with real-world work experiences.
Recruitment tip: Highlight case studies of the amazing and various opportunities your current students are taking advantage of right now.
- Financial Literacy Education: Offer seminars or courses on financial literacy to help students manage their finances, including student loans, effectively. Extend this to job counseling so students are better able to evaluate their options as opportunities develop. Housing costs, commuting, benefits packages, retirement contributions, all of these factors play into the value of a job offer and are often ill-considered by grads who are new to the workforce.
Recruitment tip: This could be particularly interesting to the parents of your target audience. Make sure they know all that your institution does to create successful graduates
- Alumni Networking: Incorporate your alumni networking into your career prep efforts to provide students with practical connections and a sense of community and continuity. When economic downturns hit, your alumni network can make the difference between your graduates falling on hard times or maintaining their incomes. Those of us who’ve been through a few of these have seen the successes and failures.
Recruitment tip: Let prospective students know upfront that your community is a community for life and one that can open the door to future employment opportunities. Tell the success stories and explain that career paths often have their ups and downs over a lifetime. Check out our popular two-part blog series on this very topic here and here.
Again, we hope you’re doing all the career-prep things already. But from working with universities across the nation and beyond, we know there’s always room for improvement. And we’re often surprised at how little these critical services are touted to prospective students. Trust us, campus life and academic programs matter a lot to prospects, but so does career support.
So, tell us, what are you doing to prepare your students for the job market? Better yet, how are you telling them? Be in touch.