Study Shows Colleges Don't Prepare Us Well for Jobs

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Graduation at Roanoke College (flickr: Thom Watson)

At a time when we have a 9 percent unemployment rate, a new study shows we may soon face a shortage of 3 million qualified workers. There are plenty of people to fill those jobs, but there won't be enough educated people trained for the positions, according to the study published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The report finds that by 2018, 63 percent of the jobs in the United States will require post-high school education. At the current rates of high school and college graduations, there will not be enough workers with higher education degrees. And colleges aren't doing enough to emphasize the importance of employability. 

This raises the question: what should college be for? To answer that, we talk with Anthony Carnevale, one of the authors of the study, and director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. We also talk with Amy Slaton, an associate professor at Drexel University and a scholar of the history of education politics.


Anthony Carnevale and Amy Slaton

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja

Comments [6]

I have maintained for years that there are people who do just fine without a college degree in some fields. What bothers me is the fact that many high school programs do not provide coursework to prepare students to head straight into the work force.

I held office jobs until my degree work was complete. I learned the skills while I was in high school.

It seems to be more sensible for school administrators to include programs that prepare students to enter the work force in their communities with a set of good foundational skills.

Jun. 21 2010 08:40 AM
Melissa from North Little

One of the most under-utilized services on any college campus is the Career Services department. As a former recruiter for a Fortune 500 company this service, which is offered on every campus that I recruited from, was invaluable to me as well.

Of all the new college graduates I made offers to and eventually hired, 99% of them came through the Career Services department of their respective college.

Of course this department at some colleges & universities served their students better than others. However, I always encourage every college student that I know to seek out their Career Services department to see what they have to offer. Most of them not only offer help with resumes, but also on the appropriate type of dress for an interview as well as help with a students interviewing skills, including video taped mock interviews which the student can watch back to see where they have room to improve.

Also, the Career Services department is not just for graduating seniors, but they will assist undergrads in find internships and summer jobs. Another little known fact is that the Career Services department at all the colleges and universities that I worked with are open to alumni, and are happy to help them search for employment, no matter how long it has been since they graduated.

Best of all, its "free". Actually, this services was included in the cost of tuition, so no additional fees are required. It should be one of the most popular departments on campus, but that is usually not the case.

Jun. 17 2010 02:22 PM
Danielle from Gainesville, FL

I'm 24 and have never gone to college. I work a full time job with paid vacation, benefits, and health care. My husband went to college and has 30,000 dollars of debt. I'm the one supporting our household because no one is hiring in his field. I wish he had just gotten an office job out of highschool.

Jun. 17 2010 09:08 AM
Y. Nichelle from Detroit

College is what you make it. Up to the student to be resourceful in seeking help and guidance in your program and in preparation for the future; I learned the hard way, after the fact. I don't regret going to college, but I did spend too much time and money while there. I am in art and education and could have gained the same knowledge in other environments. I know I gained more real world experience on the job, after school. Art school did not teach the business of art, only how to work for others. I do credit college with gaining independence, peronal growth, and (only a bit) of fun. I was too busy working to pay my way. I will save to pay for my children's college tuition as well as guide them to work harder in high school to secure scholarships to help pay for school, so work does not distract from their college studies. I will also guide them in entrepreneurship.

Jun. 17 2010 08:35 AM
Diane from Michigan

Having earned 3 college degrees, here is what I learned about the best way to get a job after a degree: pursue a degree that leads to a CERTIFICATION as well as a degree. When I was an undergraduate in Health Sciences, there was a bulletin board at the school that showed "300 Careers in the Health Field"., but never mentioned that virtually every job required a certification.
Respiratory therapists, nurses, physical therapists, physician assistants,laboratory technologists, ultrasound techs, dietitians, etc. ALL require certifications. Teachers require certifications. I recommend students to find out if what they want to do after school requires a certification and make sure that their college program fulfills the requirements to write the certification exam when the student is finished with school. That paves the way to "shovel ready" employment after school.

Jun. 17 2010 08:27 AM
azima from Rhode Island

Why did I go to college? At 25 years old I was tired of being a bank teller, or waitress or chamber maid, so I went to community college. Although I enjoyed literature, music and art, it never occurred to me to try to get a degree in those fields for, what I thought, were obvious reasons (i.e., who will pay me to read??). I chose a program called Chemical Technology, which trained me to be a chemistry lab technician (by the way, this same program is on the chopping block because the job placement is so successful, that some students find jobs before they even graduate and then have to come back to finish part-time, generally at their employers expense. Administrators simply see the "low graduation rate," not the fact that this is a successful program that trains workers and finds them jobs.). Although I had no prior interest in chemistry, I actually enjoyed the subject. I took my AAS degree and worked in Quality Control then R&D at a local manufacturer. A few years later I was perusing the want ads and saw a headline, "Pharmacists - 40K!" (a good salary in the 80's) and thought, "I could be a pharmacist." I earned my degree and worked for years in pharmaceutical R&D. In other words...I followed the money! Kids are told today that they "can do anything." Most public schools no longer prepare students to study (e.g., a colleague has a son who was inducted into the National Honor Society at his public school, yet can't pass his basic chemistry & math courses at the state university), and "guidance" counselors don't seem to have a clue about the best fields for finding employment. They just try to get the kids into the universities that their parents can brag about (i.e., my daughter is majoring in "Womens Studies at Princeton"). I understand that there are some kids who know what they want at an early age and have the passion to succeed in their field despite huge competition, but I think they're a minority.

Jun. 17 2010 08:18 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.