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Employers say college graduates are not prepared for career advancement

Students raise their fists at the end of "Hark the Sound" during Commencement on May 13. 

Students raise their fists at the end of "Hark the Sound" during Commencement on May 13. 

A recent study shows college students across the nation are only primed for entry-level positions and are unprepared for promotion in the postgraduate workforce.

The Hart Research Associates, working on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, surveyed 501 business executives and 500 hiring managers from a variety of companies to gauge the perceived value of a college education. 

The employers surveyed were equally spread across the American Northeast, South, Midwest and West, with varying workforce sizes.

According to the study, 57 percent of executives and 60 percent of hiring managers believe recent college graduates have the ability to succeed in entry-level positions, but not in higher-level positions. 

Only 34 percent of business executives and 25 percent of hiring managers were confident recent graduates are well equipped for career advancement. 

Some of the individuals surveyed said colleges and universities need significant improvements to their curriculum to promote graduate success. 

However, the study did show a high number of employers indicated a strong preference for a college education. The study said 82 percent of executives and 75 percent of hiring managers believe a college degree is either very important or essential in the workforce. 

Gary Miller, the director of University Career Services at UNC-Chapel Hill, said he still believes universities are structured to prepare graduates for future careers.  

“We want to create graduates who are ready to tackle lots of different problems and obviously be prepared to grow in their opportunities as they become available to them," Miller said. "I think it’s extreme to say that it’s the University's responsibility to prepare somebody for a specific advancement opportunity.”

Miller said there can often be a difference between institutional goals and workforce requirements of universities.

“There are lots of different types of institutions of higher education in the world, and I think there’s always been a tension between what some institutions view as their mission and what the needs of the labor market are," he said. "I certainly am not one who would say that the role of modern university is to prepare people for work.”

The employers surveyed specifically emphasized critical thinking and forms of communication as key characteristics for career advancement. 

Christa Gala, a freelance journalist and lecturer for the School of Media and Journalism, said these skills are taught commonly throughout the department. 

“I strongly feel that the School of Media and Journalism promotes collaboration," Gala said. "We often work in teams. We’ve got Reese News Lab, which troubleshoots potential problem areas in the industry and generally, most classroom settings I’m familiar with encourage students to work together and to solve problems.”

Gala said the school is always working to make its students more marketable and job-ready.

“We’re constantly looking at what do we need to be teaching so that student’s skill are relevant, and they are employable and successful,” she said.

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