Many recent grads don't get hired. How can career services help? 'Think local'

Build community connections, stay on top of in-demand skills

Given high unemployment among recent college graduates, schools must proactively align their curricula and career services to match local employers' needs, Business Officer Magazine reports.

Young workers traditionally face more challenges in finding employment, and when the U.S. economy gains steam, the labor market for young people has historically been slower to recover.

  • According to a New York Federal Reserve report, between 1990 and the first quarter of 2013, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates averaged 4.3%, while the rate for was 2.9% for all college graduates
  • While the overall unemployment rate stood at 6.7% last March, the rate for workers younger than 25 was much higher, at 14.5%.

As a result, a significant number of young graduates may end up taking any job they can find.  In 2012, 44% of new graduates worked in jobs that did not require a college degree.

To prepare students for this challenging environment, colleges must gather more information about their local labor market and build relationships that will lead to jobs for recent graduates, says Scott Lurding, an expert who acts as matchmaker between schools and employers.

How to transform student employment into meaningful career development

"Most graduates of a college or university will stay within the institution's respective region," says Lurding. Therefore, colleges need a deliberate strategy to gather information about the local economy, and employer's current perceptions of their graduates. Lurding acknowledges that "it's a time-consuming process," but adds it is the only way to get "specific employer feedback about the way companies [view] the university, its programs, its students—and where they thought potential opportunities might be."

By getting more precise information about employers' needs, schools can make programmatic changes. In one instance, Lurding worked with a university to identify what software languages needed to be taught in its information technology classes in order for graduates to be competitive in the local market.

More broadly, it is important for administrators to make connections with local business leaders and coordinate with them on relevant initiatives. Lurding suggests guest lectures, internships, and advisory panels as ways to build relationships with the business community (Rupp, Business Officer Magazine, January 2015; Shierholz, et al, Economic Policy Institute, 5/1/14).

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