This article comes from the Campus Contributor Network. Over the course of the semester, students from across our campus outreach program will analyze their school’s finances and assess the overall return students see on their educational investments.
Because we’re all interested in succeeding in life after college, we decided to take a look at how and why UNC Wilimington should provide an improved modern education for the 21st century.
A hardscrabble reality
What have remained constant, however, are the higher employment rates associated with higher levels of education. If young Americans wish to succeed in today’s economy, they need some level of higher education above a high-school degree to satisfy the demands of America’s job market.
Majors that get the cold hard cash
According to Glassdoor.com, the highest-paying jobs in 2016 belonged to physicians, lawyers, and research & development managers. Information technology (IT) jobs are also on the rise across the board, making computer science one of the most financially beneficial majors for college students.
And yet, a good degree isn’t everything employers want from graduates, as college students must also learn a variety of critical skills if they wish to thrive when entering the modern work force.
Skills, skills, skills
When hiring recent graduates, employers look for a combination of analytical skills, including an understanding of statistics, computer science skills, applying learned skills in new settings and creative problem solving skills, and interpersonal skills, such as the ability to work as part of a team, effective communication skills and a strong sense of ethics. This dynamic skill set is aquired both inside and outside of the classroom.
One of the most common out-of-school avenues to learn professional skills is an internship. Internships provide workplace experience as well as valuable networking opportunities for students to take advantage of after graduation, but it seems paid internships result in better employment outcomes when compared to unpaid internships.
In the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2015 Job Outlook Report, “six in 10 respondents indicated that they prefer work experience gained through an internship or co-op experience.” And in the last few years, over 70 percent of employers stated they hired candidates with relevant work experience.
A modern education
UNCW’s Career Center offers guidance to students trying to choose a major, as well as provides outreach programs for internship and/or employment opportunities. The career center is widely used by students for its resume building and cover letter review programs.
While this is beneficial for students, they are still not receiving all the valuable post-collegiate skills for which employers look. And with no guarantee that they will land internships that help them find future employment, many students are left with a gap in their education as they approach the job hunt.
As noted by GenFKD, “the modern career landscape for new college graduates has drastically changed since 50 years ago, and the skillset now needed to succeed after college is radically different.”
The bottom line is that all college students need lessons on both hard skills (coding, science, data analytics, etc.) and soft skills (interpersonal skills, networking, teamwork, etc.) if they are to succeed in America’s current and future economy.
Getting on the right track
UNCW does have a mandatory first-year seminar that attempts to address this need.
The seminar (UNI 101) as identified in UNCW’s Academic Catalogue, is described as a class where, “students explore the goals of liberal arts learning, academic ethics and strategies, UNCW’s common reading, information literacy, self-management, and effective group collaboration.”
I believe there is room for an additional class (or two) that teaches the hard and soft skills necessary to be competitive. While each class is beneficial in its own way, a project-based learning program could help build students’ career skills.
A university education should prioritize the student’s best interest in creating the highest employment opportunity after college. If not, young Americans may have to find other means beyond an increasingly pricey education that may end up failing them after graduation.
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