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College Matters


posed2's periodic roundup of college-to-career headlines

Gen Z Feels Less Prepared for Work Than Did Prior Generations

A recent study conducted by Wakefield Research for Ellucian, a global provider of software and services for higher education, documents the growing importance of credentials; a soft skills gap among college grads; and the need for education business models that support lifelong learning.

By their own report, students are enrolling in college to improve their career prospects, and yet, they wonder whether they’re learning skills that will prepare them for today’s workforce. Their concerns are amplified as big employers such as Google, Apple, and others have begun to look past college degrees in order to identify and recruit talent.

  • 62 percent of students currently cite "improving job prospects" as their top reason to attend college.
  • Only 36 percent of Generation Z (ages 18-21) feel very prepared for the workforce, compared to 49 percent of Millennials (ages 22-37) and 68 percent of Generation X (ages 38-53).
  • Only a third of recruiters polled require a degree for entry level positions, and they report the top qualities of candidates with degrees and candidate with credentials are similar.

Both students and recruiters concur that credentials - in addition to traditional degrees - are now essential to students’ job prospects.

  • 97 percent of students believe that credentials are essential to meeting their future career goals.
  • 97 percent of recruiters believe credentials will be important in their company’s consideration of whether to hire someone.
  • 48 percent of executive recruiters think further education is needed - more than once a year - to stay relevant in the workplace.

Transferable soft skills - such as communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving - increasingly are recognized as critical to career success.

  • 40 percent of recruiters find job candidates lack desired communication skills.
  • 30 percent of recruiters find candidates lack required, critical thinking skills.

The future of work is changing rapidly, and the implications for college students today are becoming more clear. As emerging technologies morph the nature of work, and future hiring needs become more difficult to project, employers are placing new emphasis on transferable "soft" skills, such as critical thinking, accountability, public speaking, and collaboration.

Additionally, employers are recognizing the value of boot camps and online credentials in filling their hiring needs. In the words of Ernst and Young's managing partner for talent, Maggie Stilwell, “Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door."

To stand out among peers, students need to adopt an attitude of life-long learning. In addition to the domain specific knowledge and skills of their chosen major, they also need to recognize and commit to mastering soft skills.

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Header image by Kim Salt, for the New York Times.