Career Readiness: What’s Working and What’s Not

Career Readiness
Career Readiness, Research

Article Summary

  • Today’s students are enrolling in college for a simple reason—better jobs.
  • For instructors however, career readiness often takes a back seat between lesson planning, grading and promoting concept mastery.
  • Surveying and interviewing 5,000 traditional and non-traditional students across two-and four-year colleges, we captured their impressions of success, career readiness, courses and obstacles to academic results.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s no secret that today’s students are enrolling in college for a simple reason—better jobs. However, instructors have a lot on their plates. Between lesson planning, grading and ensuring students possess the concept mastery to succeed in their classes, career readiness often takes a back seat. However, as technological changes like AI, automation and machine learning continue to change the modern workforce, career preparation is becoming increasingly important—and difficult—to master.

According to a study conducted by the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, 88% of students cited getting a better job as their main reason for attending college. How well are institutions doing in empowering students to ready themselves for careers?

To help instructors meet the demands of their students and better address the challenges of the modern workforce, we set out to learn more about how colleges are preparing students—from students themselves. Surveying and interviewing 5,000 traditional and non-traditional students across two- and four-year colleges, we captured their impressions of success, career readiness, courses and obstacles to academic results.

Students Share Their Thoughts on Career Prep

One of the biggest takeaways from the study was the inherent disconnect between the college curriculum and what students feel they should be learning in order to succeed. In fact, a study conducted by Northeastern University indicated that 87% of college students lack the skills necessary for success. Put simply, we need to rethink what prepares students for life after graduation.

What Works?

“I need internships and real-life experiences.”

According to the survey, the availability of internship opportunities had a direct correlation with students’ satisfaction with the college experience. For many students, internships give crucial previews of the workplace—helping showcase some of the critical skills they need to attract employers before they graduate. In fact, research supports that the experiential learning students receive in an internship leads to positive career outcomes.

What Isn’t Working?

“I had to go through some negative consequences to help me learn what I needed to. I could have taken a pass on some of the classes that I took.”

With respondents of the survey clearly focusing on their futures, many indicated that there’s room for more career and life-oriented lessons in the curriculum. One of the most surprising statistics to come from the survey is that 84% of respondents felt it was at least “somewhat difficult” to achieve their own definition of success in college. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 34% of students strongly agree that they will graduate with the skills they need to be successful in the job market.

The Takeaway

Students are clearly craving lessons geared specifically toward career readiness, and the study highlights ways to incorporate these lessons into existing curriculums. Here are some of the skills and lessons students want more of:

  • Business seminars on how to prepare for office culture
  • Resume workshops
  • Demonstrating soft skills crucial to employability
  • Hands-on experience with real-world scenarios

Ready to Learn More About Preparing Students for the Workforce?

Check out our whitepaper, Study: Are Colleges Preparing Students for the Workforce. Here, we take an in-depth dive into the skills students are looking for to empower their futures, highlighting their opinions on common challenges alongside third-party research into their feedback.