For some time, there has been a widening gap between the skills employers are seeking in interns and entry level hires and the skills and training colleges are providing for their students. According to a recent post in Inside Higher Ed, 75% of employers say they are having difficulty finding graduates with the soft skills they need. Traditionally, college students turned to campus career centers for help finding their first jobs, but a 2019 NACE report revealed that only 30.5% of career centers had partnerships with companies seeking to hire students. How much help can a student expect if the career center isn’t equipped to help them?
The pandemic, which caused more work to become remote, has increased the challenge for college students to build the necessary credentials. While the trend of “preskilling” has been the subject of some studies, it has been largely ignored by our universities and campus career centers, leaving students to search for alternative methods to prepare themselves for the workforce.
College students seem more focused than ever on career preparation, but are acutely aware that their education is not preparing them to make a successful entry into their desired careers. In fact, 49% of recent grads feel underqualified for entry level jobs. As they start their career journey by applying to internships, they learn that their credentials are not aligned with what employers require. In fact, we have found that college students consistently lack even the most basic Excel skills — knowledge that is expected by employers across industries.
To get noticed by employers, today’s students need to evaluate their curriculum choices and take the initiative to look beyond their campus career office in order to get hired. There are clear steps college students can take. First, they need to be able to identify their deficiencies in both hard (technical) and soft (behavioral) skills. Once identified, students must look for the resources to shore up these gaps.
This kind of preparation requires knowledge of what employers are actually looking for, followed by a plan to acquire those skills, and it takes time.
These gaps can be addressed by adding a more technical minor, looking for specific courses given by the university, taking online courses and bootcamps, and acquiring certifications that demonstrate a level of proficiency obtained in areas relevant to their desired job.
Companies used to flock to campuses to find the most talented students and speak with them face to face, but those days are gone.
Campus career services were relevant when hosting visiting companies was a valuable role. Now students are connecting with employers directly, and employers are finding a significant percentage of students and graduates are unprepared for the internships and full-time jobs they are seeking. How do we know this? Employers utilize technology, like Applicant Tracking Systems, to identify students who have the skills required for the jobs they are applying to. The average graduate’s resumé often doesn’t make it past the Applicant Tracking System, and that’s a big problem for job seekers.
Priority Candidates recognizes the needs of students and their future employers. We evaluate each job seeker’s readiness for the modern workforce to identify areas where they need to grow in order to be competitive candidates in the application process. If you don’t feel ready for your job search, our career coaches are here to help.