But consider this—a recent Gallup poll found that 96 percent of university leadership thought that their institutions were “very or somewhat effective” at preparing students for the workforce. Yet only 11 percent of business leaders surveyed thought the same thing. Only 11 percent. Ouch. Seems like a pretty big disconnect.
Build relationships with employers. Talk to them. Find out what skills they need, and what skills entry-level students are lacking. You can even formalize the process by setting up a local Employer Advisory Board made up of professionals who can help you evaluate the real-world applicability of your programs.
Keep track. Know who’s hiring your grads, and record that info. Survey them about what they think. Did they have to spend a lot of time re-training? If yes, what were the skills or knowledge gaps? Would they hire another graduate of your school? Use this information in conjunction with the Employer Advisory Board feedback to refine your curriculum and set your students up for the best possible chance of success.
Incorporate real-world skills into every curriculum. Once you have a thorough understanding of what skills individuals need to know to perform a job, work backwards from there. Develop learning objectives based on these skills, and create learning materials that engage all types of learners. Keep an eye on emerging areas. Jobs aren’t static. Curricula shouldn’t be either.
Integrate work experience into every program. Internships. Co-ops. Apprenticeships. Service learning. All programs should have one of these or something similar. No exceptions. Career counseling and job placement services are necessary too.
Make sure word gets out. Chances are, you’re already doing at least some of what we suggest above. Now use it as a tool to recruit students and build reputation. Showcase your alignment with employers and industry organizations. Demonstrate the joy students get out of working their field after graduation. Play up your focus on innovative disciplines and teaching styles. Make both students and employers want to be a part of your school.