Student Perceptions of Workforce Preparedness and Career Resources
The 2017 College Student Survey, a recent report from Gallup and Strada Education Network, found that many students at four-year colleges and universities do not think higher education is preparing them with the skills and knowledge to be successful in their future careers. These results differ from AAC&U’s 2015 Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success report, in which most students said that colleges and universities are doing a good job of preparing them for entry-level positions (74 percent) and for future promotion/advancement (64 percent). The Gallup/Strada report, which is based on responses from more than 30,000 students at forty-three colleges and universities, provides an overview of students’ perceptions of their workforce preparation and of the value of faculty mentorship, academic advising, and career services resources. It highlights the benefits these resources confer to students, especially black and Hispanic students, first-generation students, and older students (over the age of twenty-four), as well as the need for institutions to be more intentional in bringing these resources to all students. It also makes it clear that institutions need to make systematic efforts to help students understand how they can employ the skills and knowledge they gain from their institutions’ broad-based liberal education curricula and cocurricula in addition to their major.
Students in Public Service Fields Feel Most Prepared for Work
- According to the report, more than a third “of current students believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the job market” (34 percent) and workplace (36 percent), while 53 percent “believe their major will lead to a good job.”
- Students majoring in public services disciplines including education, social work, and criminal justice are the most likely to believe their education provided the skills necessary for career success after graduation. However, STEM students “report the most confidence about their job prospects,” with 62 percent believing that their major “will lead to a good job.” Liberal arts majors expressed the lowest confidence in their future career prospects (see fig. 1).
Older Students Feel More Prepared to Enter the Workforce
- Fifty-seven percent of older students (twenty-four years old and over) believe their major is setting them up to get a good job, compared to 52 percent of younger students.
- Older students, who may be changing careers or seeking promotion, were also more likely to think they were gaining the knowledge and skills necessary for the job market (41 percent) and workplace (43 percent) than younger students (32 and 35 percent, respectively).
- “This greater confidence among older students could, in part, be attributable to having clearer goals upon enrollment in a college program,” the report said. While just 60 percent of younger students had decided on a major before enrolling in their institution, seven in ten older students had done so.
- Students who were optimistic about their career prospects and had clarity about their personal goals were also more satisfied in their institution and major. Older students were more likely to say that they would enroll in the same institution (54 percent) and pursue the same major (60 percent) than younger students (44 percent and 53 percent, respectively) if they “had to do it all over again."
The Big Benefits of Staff and Faculty Support
- Just 46 percent of students “speak often or very often with faculty or staff at their school about their career options,” but this mentoring and support can have a large impact on how prepared students feel to begin their careers.
- Students who talk often or very often with faculty or staff about their future jobs are more likely to believe they will be prepared to succeed in the job market (42 percent) and workplace (45 percent) than those who rarely or never receive career support (27 and 29 percent, respectively). Students who receive this support “are also 13 percentage points more likely to believe their major will lead to a good job.”
- Students who believe that faculty and staff “are committed to helping students find a rewarding career” are much more likely to be optimistic about their career (see fig. 2).
The Work-Preparation Benefits of Career Services and Academic Advising
- Academic advising and career services are also resource areas that campuses could use more to support students’ career goals.
- According to the report, just 43 percent of students have been to their institution’s career services office or used related online resources more than once, and 39 percent have never visited the office or used the resources at all.
- Students were also more likely to find academic advisors to be very helpful in guiding them through choosing courses or majors and minors than in identifying or evaluating career options, graduate degrees, or training programs (see fig. 3).
- Overall, black and Hispanic students, first-generation students, and older students (twenty-four years old and over) found career services and academic advising more helpful than white and Asian students, non-first-generation students, and younger students.
Unless otherwise stated, all information and figures in this article are from the 2017 College Student Survey, copublished by Gallup and Strada Education Network. Figures are included by permission of Gallup.