Closing the gap between what employers need and what colleges produce will require effort from both sides, specialists say.
After reading this thought provoking article, I sat back and began to reflect on my two sons, who are 9 and 12 years of age. I concluded not much would change in 10 years, when my oldest enters the job market, after receiving a 4-year degree. But not to fret, if he choses a different path, I believe the key to employability for young people lies in a different model for acquiring skills that are relevant to employers.
Let’s start with COMMUNICATION as a foundational skill. From this, we must include the following abilities to:
Body language aka Professionalism
Taken together, this represents a powerful package. The winning combination for students we hire ultimately at my firm are, generally speaking, young women and men with strong communication skills. That is not to say, they are ready for clients, but shows they have a desire to apply what they have learned and more importantly, shown growth.
The next skill, DECISION-MAKING. Many of my clients struggle with his skill that has many years of experience. However, more fundamentally, what employers are looking for is one’s rational thought process. More precisely, young people should have experiences that answer a fundamental question: how did you deal with difficult situations or situations where you had tough choices where peer pressure might have been involved? Let’s take for example, a young person whose parents shielded them from the results of an incident, which required judgment. If there is no consequence, there is typically nothing learned or a sense of invincibility. On the other hand, let’s take a young person who had to make choice between working extra hours to help buy food and studying for an exam. Just imagine the critical thinking skills this person has to do, and how they learn to manage their time and priorities. Not to mention, immediate consequences for their judgment staring them in the face.
Let’s take another skill, according to the article, ADAPTABILITY. What does this mean for an employer when you only want to interview graduates with a certain GPA, and major. If you take this a step further, adaptability means, one’s ability to be flexible with a work shift, how disciplined they are to work in a virtual environment and interact in healthy ways with globally diverse teams, and not have a bigoted mindset “after work”.
You get the idea. Here is a news flash: colleges and universities DO NOT teach these so-called, highly sought after skills. These skills are, for the most part learned and developed in K-12. Colleges and universities allow for refinement and growth with these skills for broader development. In addition, the biggest factor for success in those formative years is what happens in the home.
If their environment has structure, discipline, consequence, fun, enjoyment, accountability, and peace, kids will thrive in the work place later in life. If parents cover up mistakes or “advocating” for a child who should be held back academically, and the parent is more concerned with how it looks, the child will not know anything about accountability, hard work, perseverance and follow through. If parents are overly critical, young people will not know how to communicate in a team, because being critical tends to be a destructive behavior that is hard to overcome, despite how well one might write or get someone else to writer their papers.
The point of all this is, employers are in for a rough ride, and colleges are not in a position to overcome the pain bodies of deficiencies many young people start with. In addition, for those who get a solid start, will likely be your CEOs and leaders of tomorrow.