How to improve perceptions and deliver on the promise of a valuable college education is a hot topic in higher education today. Through our experience working with employers and educational institutions, The Melior Group has learned that perceptions around this topic are often off the mark. At the crux of the research, The Melior Group has become aware of what could be called “An Exploration Gap.” In Part 2 of our series we explore the need for schools to help students put theory into practice.

Heavy Dose Of Real World Experience
We have learned that employers prefer candidates who can hit the ground running in their first professional job. What knowledge, abilities and experiences do employers expect this student to possess?

  • Ability to tie classroom knowledge to the professional environment
  • Have developed hard and soft skills such as such as project management, independent problem solving, clear writing and communications.
  • Diverse internship experience(s) working in a range of different areas of their desired industry.

Round Out An Individual’s Value To The Organization

With an increasingly competitive hiring environment and more cross-functional roles, employers want candidates who have been given meaningful opportunities for learning and growth. Academically strong students who have not applied classroom knowledge to the real world are at a disadvantage. Employers expect universities to assist students in obtaining internships and skill sets that help them:

  • Learn the basics of being a part of the workforce.
  • Understand how people problem-solve in a professional setting.
  • Use critical thinking skills that will contribute to their value in an organization.

Approach a new employer with a unique point of view (e.g. having interned with a competitor, a funding source, a client or a vendor.)

Today’s entry-level workforce needs a combination of softer project management skills, harder field-related skills and applied industry knowledge — and employers expect universities to deliver graduates with this combination.

Close The Gap With Communication and Partnership
Many colleges are perceived by employers to be missing the mark in preparing students for these challenges post-graduation. But, the good news is that employers welcome opportunities to learn more and discuss how graduates are being prepared for the workforce.  

In approaching employers, colleges need to demonstrate that internship programs offered are sufficient to meet the needs of both students and prospective employers. As well, the messages they’re delivering to prospective employers should showcase student internship success stories and the programs being offered (industry-relevant) and the successful outcomes from those programs.

Human Resource departments go to great expense but are often unable to find qualified talent that meets their needs. Employers actively seek to forge relationships with schools who are interested to develop students who can fulfill these roles. Colleges and Universities can take steps to develop partnerships that may include guest speakers, internship, training and job placement opportunities. Ongoing communications with employers are critical towards closing the perception gap.

The Melior Group works with large research institutions, regional public universities and small private colleges to improve the perception of their schools’ effectiveness by discovering where gaps in perception exist and drilling into what strategic mix of programmatic, communication and partnership initiatives can allow institutions to more easily deliver on expectations.

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

One thought on “Are Students Trained To Put Theory Into Practice?

  1. I’ve been talking about this a lot at my institution. The students here seem to be learning the “practice” part but not the “theory.” Which means that critical thinking skills are lacking in a big way. And it’s been frustrating trying to get students to think outside of the box and beyond their comfort zone. From my conversations with professors, this trend is only getting worse. I definitely want to invite more professional guest speakers on campus – the students need to hear it from the mouths of their future employers. Let me know if you ever want to chat about it 🙂

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