By Claire Connacher
A recent study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) found that employers of recent college graduates are less than impressed with employee skill levels. Polling both employers and graduates, the study indicated that while employees rated themselves relatively high, their employers consistently rated them much lower. Another study called Collegiate Learning Assessment, which measures students’ skill gains in college, found that the difference in skill levels between freshmen and seniors was small. College, it seems, is not preparing us for the outside world.
The skills employers want seem simple, such as critical thinking, time management, the ability to prioritize and decision making. Why does college not seem to be fostering these skills? The vice president of talent and acquisition at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Marie Artim, said that our generation “has been ‘syllabused’ through” our lives. Decisions about course materials, timing of tasks and assignments have all been predetermined, leaving students with little decision-making responsibility. However, president of Wesleyan University Michael Roth said that college can still prepare students for the job market as long as they rigorously apply themselves in college and demonstrates the “capacity to do other things.”
How does this relate to the rising cost of education? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, costs across the country for tuition, room and board for undergraduates at public institutions rose 40 percent between 2001-02 and 2011-12, and rose 28 percent at private institutions. Despite this, parents and students still seem to want to pay for an undergraduate education because the idea that it will guarantee a better job is still alive and well. This, of course, means that colleges have an even higher obligation than ever before to prepare their students for the job market.
According to Bloomberg, the Gabelli School of Business has a 76 percent rate of student job offers out of school. However, that rate is lower for Rose Hill students. Career Services is offered as a resource for finding what job will suit a student best, but do they really help? Tim Wasgatt, FCRH ’15, said that he “didn’t find them particularly helpful” to his job search.
While Career Services is extremely helpful to those who would like to pursue business, teaching or public relations, it can be difficult to take advantage of their services if you do not yet feel passionate about a career. Especially in today’s economy, in which the cost of college and all expenses are high and growing, undergraduate institutions have a responsibility to prepare students for their futures.
While it is certainly the job of students to take advantage of what Fordham has to offer in order to prepare them, the high cost of attendance, which is $66,578, including fees, room and board. This means that Career Services needs to help students navigate the ever- changing job market. Skills that employers are looking for, such as time management and critical thinking, can really only be foster ed by the students themselves.
The question is once a student has fostered those skills, how does he or she show an employer this? Speaking from experience as a senior, I still have little idea how to convey to a potential employer that I have time management or critical thinking skills through a cover letter.
According to the recent AAC&U study, a liberal arts education is still extremely valuable for its ability to foster basic but important skills, but this does not necessarily lead to good employment. The study also found that the unemployment rate for recent liberal arts graduates is at 5.2 percent, while the rate for liberal arts graduates in the 41-50 age range is just 3.5 percent. Fordham should find ways to bridge this gap and help students find jobs they are both passionate about and jobs that will provide them with good futures.
Claire Connacher, FCRH ’15, is a political science and history major from Alameda, CA.