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Commentary: Are college grads workforce-ready?


Allen Hutson (Provided)
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  • Allen Hutson

Graduating college is a rite of passage. College graduates have spent the last four to seven years (depending on the patience of their parents) of their lives diligently studying, cultivating relationships and preparing for their bright futures. This is what college graduates tell themselves and, in most cases, their parents. But are they really ready for the next step? Are they ready for the responsibility, demanding bosses and endless hours of tedious work, making what will almost certainly feel like pennies on the dollar?

A recent survey by Chegg studies and textbook company suggests that 50 percent of college students feel they are very/completely prepared for a job, meaning only half believe they are ready to dominate their future job.

But how do hiring employers rate the preparedness of college students entering the workforce? Employers completing the same survey believe only 39 percent of college students are very/completely prepared for a job in their field of study, a stark contrast to the quasi-confidence college students exhibited in answering the same question.

Why is there such a disconnect between the views of employers and the college students soon to enter the workforce? More importantly, what can be done to diminish this disconnect? There is certainly blame to go around: college students, universities and employers have each attributed to the perceived (or real) lack of preparedness of college graduates for the workforce.

Everyone has heard a former college graduate from years past claim, “When I was in college, the classes were hard,” “When I was in college, everyone went to class and studied eight hours a day” or “When I was in college, I had no time for fun.” Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but there is likely a smidge of truth to those sentiments. Most college students do not treat college like they are preparing for an 8-to-5 job. But that is the purpose of college. College students who put in the time to really learn — not learn enough just to pass some test — the subjects covered in their college courses are generally more prepared for the workforce.

That isn’t to suggest every class a college student takes in college will be applicable to his/her real-life job, but the college students who put real effort into their classes are likely prepared to put the same effort into their jobs.

Universities, on the other hand, need to do a better job keeping up with advancements in industries and adapting course materials to provide college students with hands-on experience.

The only way to adequately prepare to perform a job is to actually do it. Universities should focus on working with employers in Oklahoma to provide these practical experiences to their students. Employers need to do a better job of communicating their expectations of a college graduate’s skill set to universities and offer more internship programs to college students. Employers’ failure to do so only widens the gap between the perceived readiness of college students entering the workforce.

College students, universities and employers need to continue to adapt to ensure that Oklahoma’s workforce stays strong and continues to attract top talent. Ready-to-work college graduates strengthen both Oklahoma’s economy and its universities. 

Allen Hutson is a labor and employment attorney at Crowe & Dunlevy.

Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.

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