Caps tossed and diplomas in hand, thousands of new graduates are entering the workforce this month. Although the job market is steadily improving, many college graduates are joining an inundated workforce. It’s an employer’s market out there, and according to a recently released college graduate study conducted by the Rutgers University Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, grads are already feeling the pinch.
Nearly half of these recent grads reported feeling insecure about how their collegiate experience prepared them for the workforce. Despite an average of four years spent for their degree, 37 percent felt unprepared for getting a job, mostly because they did not feel they had acquired the skills employers were seeking.
During FiberKC’s technology workforce development discussion on May 8th, participants stressed the importance of internships in building a strong technology workforce. Internships serve as real-world experience for high school and college students—they prepare would-be members of the workforce for the daily tasks, requirements and work environment in ways that classroom education cannot. And, as the Rutgers study demonstrates, internships can play a key role in preparing students for their professional lives.
According to the study, 69 percent of recent graduates who completed internships said college prepared them to be successful in their jobs. 10 percent fewer graduates who did not complete internships felt that college prepared them for the workforce. The numbers are similar with regards to securing employment post-graduation: 40 percent of those with internships said college did well in helping them find a job, while only 31 percent without internships agreed. Additionally, internships appear to bolster soft skills in recent grads—thus satisfying another area of interest from last week’s FiberKC discussion. Of respondents taking internships, they were 10 percentage points more likely than peers not taking internships to say they have extremely well-developed skills in the areas of leadership, communication and quantitative (math and technology) skills.
It’s clear from the study that internships are beneficial for students in all fields, but the results of the survey touch on the technology workforce problems we are experiencing closer to home. Nearly two out of three recent graduates would major in something different if they had the chance to go back. 37 percent of these regretful grads wish they had been more careful in choosing majors, and only 39 percent admitted thinking about the job opportunities in the field when deciding their majors in the first place. While many of these grads are likely looking for options because of the tight job market, most of them still seem unaware that the technology workforce is growing at twice the rate of the overall workforce—just 29 percent say they should have gone into a STEM major.
As the study states, “it is apparent that very little future-oriented thinking goes into the selection of college majors among college students.” The good news for businesses relying on the creation of robust technology workforce is that some grads are cluing in to the importance of technology in the workplace: the majority of recent graduates (56 percent) say they wish they had taken more computer and technology classes.
Technology-based internships could certainly provide hands-on experience to students interested in pursuing careers in technology, and as per the respondents of the Rutgers survey, these internships would help those students feel prepared to enter the workforce immediately following graduation. This could be a big bonus for businesses who feel as though their employment prospects are not adequately prepared for the realities of technology positions, but there’s another benefit here, too—as more students sample technology through internships, there is a good chance that they will have a better understanding of what technology work is actually like. In networking with mentors in the field, students can also begin to see that technology career paths are not just lucrative, but waiting with open arms to hire them post-graduation.
To read the full Rutgers University study, click here: http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/content/Chasing_American_Dream_Report.pdf