A new Cengage survey highlights the challenges faced by those entering the workforce, especially those coming out of two-year colleges.
Feeling unprepared for the future despite completing two- and four-year degrees, nearly 50% of graduates surveyed said they did not apply for some entry-level positions in their field because that they felt underqualified. As a result, over 45% did not see a return on investment by attending college.
The recent Graduate Employability Report released by education technology company Cengage highlights the uncomfortable reality that 1,600 students faced in their research – 40% saying they occasionally or rarely use the skills acquired at university and 20% admitting that they have no other basic skills to compete. posts.
“As more and more students question the value of a degree, colleges, universities and the partners who support these institutions must invest as much in professional skills, such as effective communication and people management. , than in traditional academics,” Michael said. Hansen, CEO of Cengage. “There is an opportunity to evolve current higher education systems and integrate career preparation, certification(s) and internships into course curricula.”
Most graduates surveyed said their degrees helped boost their earning potential, but skyrocketing student debt has put them in dire financial straits. According to the report, 49% of graduates had to abstain, while 26% will need more than a decade to pay off their student loans.
“Higher education has a huge affordability problem,” said Fernando Bleichmar, executive vice president and general manager of US higher education at Cengage. “Not only do students face financial burdens, but they also cannot find meaningful employment to pay off their debt. For community college graduates in particular, this long period could be attributed to the stigmas associated with enrolling in a two-year college – creating insecurities and reduced confidence among graduates entering the workforce.
“Many two-year graduates believe their degree is not competitive with their colleagues with a four-year degree, leading them to feel underqualified and refrain from applying for positions. “
Some graduates also struggled to find work quickly. A third, in fact, cannot find a job after six months.
inside the numbers
Cengage officials said the problem is not just with the preparation of higher education institutions, but also with a group of employers who still expect incoming workers to have a bachelor’s degree. They said this often deters two-year degree holders or those who have followed non-traditional education paths from applying.
“Employers need to rethink archaic hiring standards,” Hansen said. “A traditional degree path is not a reality for many Americans, and four-year degree requirements can penalize applicants who follow non-traditional educational paths. By prioritizing skills, not just degrees, business leaders have the opportunity to remove existing barriers, help address labor shortages, and spur our economic recovery. »
Graduates also noted a dearth of hands-on learning experiences in the survey. When asked if applied learning and networking with business leaders in college were important factors in getting hired, 66% said yes. However, a third of them say they have never done an internship. They gave a variety of reasons: 30% said “free work” was prohibitively expensive, 25% said their institutions did not provide these opportunities, and the balance between childcare or family l made it impossible for 22%.
Some other notable stats from the survey that show where students are at in their careers and finances:
- 47% of students haven’t invested in real estate or bought a home, and 35% don’t have a retirement account
- Price was the #1 factor when choosing a university at 36%, followed by placement rate (33%) and prestige (20%).
- 40% said their institutions invest too much in areas other than academics, including “campus beautification and athletics.”
- 60% of respondents say colleges should help them find jobs
Cengage leaders say colleges and universities have an obligation to improve student career paths and provide more substantial resources to maximize their outcomes. Since many entry-level positions require certain job-related skills, it has been difficult for many graduates to show that they are a good fit. So about half of them seek additional training or certifications – after they have already graduated – to try to become more employable. About 20% urged their peers through a survey to do the same.
“Institutions and employers have the opportunity to ensure that every student, regardless of their learning path, has the opportunity to further their career and land stable and meaningful employment,” Bleichmar said. “To begin with, learners need better resources and visibility of opportunities related to their skills, interests and educational backgrounds, and academic institutions need to strengthen the bridges between higher education and employability, and equip students with professional skills.