Press "Enter" to skip to content

New college graduates, business leaders disagree on degrees

Isn’t it interesting how different groups can have remarkably different perspectives on the same thing? A recent Harris Poll of new college graduates revealed that 90% of participates believe going to college is a worthwhile endeavor. Additionally, they believe that a college degree is the best way for a person to secure their future.

In a new report from Multiverse, business leaders heartily disagree. Sixty-seven percent of participants in that survey believe that new college graduates are nowhere near prepared to work. Seven of ten participants said that on-the-job training (as opposed to a college degree) was the best way to develop workforce skills. Fewer than half of respondents said their company has degree requirements for new hires.

Euan Blair, the CEO of Multiverse, said that colleges and universities have become too far removed from the needs of the workforce to be of value to an employer. Further, Blair – who happens to be a son of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, says there’s no way a college degree adequately prepares a person for a decades-long career.

Blair is a major advocate for applied learning – the kind of instruction that most community colleges offer in their occupational programs. Even though Blair decries the notion that a university degree can prepare a person for a long career, applied learning can’t do that either. No field stays the same; change is constant (even when it comes slowly), and it requires constant evolution.

Participants in the Multiverse survey said they learned much more about personnel management, project management, critical thinking, and time management only after they entered the workforce. That makes a lot of sense, given that classroom learning typically focuses on subject matter rather than skill-building.

Short-term programs short-change new college graduates

New college graduates, regardless of how they train, will lack workforce experience. Blair could easily level the same criticisms at workers who have completed a community college program. The danger here is that community colleges continually pare down their programs to the point of de minimis value.

Via short-term certificate and non-credit “workforce development” programs, community colleges have mastered a kind of educational “shrinkflation” in an attempt to minimize a program’s time commitment and cost to the students. In the end, this approach serves no one – not the students, not the employers, and not the community.

It gives credence to the complaint that recent graduates are unprepared for the workforce. It supports the position that college preparation – regardless the duration of a program – is not worth the time or effort, or the investment of public dollars.

Community colleges should be very careful about watering down their educational programs in an effort to get people into the workforce quickly. Some things worth having (or doing) simply take time.

Photo Credit: COD Newsroom