Declining value of college degrees makes way for increase in value of internships

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

CollegiateTimes.com

A recent study published by The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed a trend in the devaluing of college degrees in the eyes of employers.

While the study agreed that degrees were important in the hiring process, they are no longer the only determining factor. Instead, employers are starting to focus more on an applicant’s qualifications outside of the classroom.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, or NACE, stated that 63 percent of paid interns from the class of 2012 had at least one job offer when they graduated, in contrast to 40 percent of those who did no internship.

Virginia Tech faculty members have also noticed a recent trend in the growing attractiveness of leadership experience to employers, along with research and internship experience.

Claire Childress, senior assistant director for Job Search and Graduate School Preparation, has worked at Career Services for 16 years and has seen this develop.

“The big thing that an employer looks for when they’re sifting through résumés is ‘do you have relevant experience,'” she said.

Childress also mentioned that it has become less about experience and even more about leadership experience.

However, the study states that employers are complaining of unpreparedness in recent four-year college graduates.

“While fresh hires had the right technical know-how for the job, they grumbled that colleges weren’t adequately preparing students in written and oral communication, decision-making, and analytical and research skills,” said employers in a survey done by The Chronicle and American Public Media’s Marketplace.

The controversy over whose responsibility it is to train students — the university or the job — stems from the fact that on-the-job training doesn’t make economic sense to many companies anymore because people so often change career plans.

“What these companies are saying is, ‘we don’t have time to train like we once did, we need people to come in and (have) the skill sets on their own, whether it’s the personal acquisition of the skills or you do it in higher education,'” said Stuart Mease, director of undergraduate career services in Pamplin.

Neither Childress nor Mease believe college graduates are leaving with inadequate preparation for the work environment.

“They’re getting presentation experiences, they get a writing intensive experience and all those skills are great skills that they’re building to bring to an employer,” Childress said.

Mease believes it’s not only the university that prepares students for the workforce.

“I think it’s a shared responsibility of everybody,” Mease said. “There’s certain things that only a company (can) train somebody specifically to do… and the educational environment needs to be set up to help more people acquire those skill sets that the private sector needs, but it’s the individual’s to decide if they’re willing.”

Childress and Mease have seen a positive overall trend in the number of on-campus interviews and post-graduate salary data over the last few years, so they’re not worried about Tech college degrees decreasing in value.

“Start early; that’s pretty critical,” said Mease. “Know what your mission is and have a strategy in place for how you’re going to get the job or internship. Make sure you’re allocating enough time to implement that strategy. You may have heard finding a job is a full-time job; it takes a lot of time and effort.”

 

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