Originally published in the Charleston Regional Business Journal – May 27, 2019
Kids grow up hearing, “If you can dream it, you can do it!” So long as they go to elementary, middle and high school, then graduate from college, of course. Once they do that, they should be unstoppable, right?
Once that degree is in hand, everything seems to be outside of a recent college grad’s control. It takes an average of 7.4 months to find a job, and that doesn’t necessarily mean a job that’s in their intended field — as of December, more than 40% of new college grads were underemployed.
Something else makes the job search even more complicated: 61% of “entry-level” jobs require at least three years’ experience. With that requirement just to enter into the workforce, today’s high schoolers need to start thinking about their interests, education and job prospects much earlier than they already are.
Proactive engagement from colleges, universities and employers can help, and also can increase their own odds of finding the next generation of talent to someday join their ranks.
High school is when many students discover what makes them unique. They identify their strengths, their weaknesses and their passions, especially as they relate to potential careers.
When students aren’t prepared for this, or when they lack the tools to explore the different pathways to their dream career, most enroll in college under the assumption that they will figure it all out there.
Obviously, this can bring a whole host of problems, including ending up at a school that doesn’t have the area of study they wind up wanting to pursue; or finding out too late that what they want to do for the rest of their life doesn’t even require a degree, just formal training.
This is a huge deal when we consider that Americans collectively owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Early intervention can save a whole lot of money.
Many students are used to traditional college and career fairs, where educators and employers challenge students to think about their future selves and consider whether their college/business fits into the equation.
These events can inspire and inform students, but today’s young people live online. If we want to reach them, we need to get on their phones.
Online, no one is limited by location or resources. With reliable internet access, anyone can connect with networks of students, colleges and employers.
This levels the playing field for small schools and businesses that may not have the financial means or flexibility to travel the country forging relationships with prospective students or employees.
Students stand to benefit, too. Attending in-person recruitment events might not be possible for those living in rural areas, but modern technology gives them the ability to connect with recruiters and explore employment options right from the palm of their hand.
Plus, Generation Z is incredibly adept at showing off online.
They’re already comfortable with social media sites that allow them to build a personal brand. Giving them the tools to do this in a professional way can help students identify what “next step” will be a good fit for them and allow colleges and companies to do the same.
We all know that high school is hard, but what comes next has proved even harder — for students, for educators and for employers.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. Technology alone isn’t going to solve every issue in the job market or bring equitable access to educational resources, but using it to level the playing field for the next generation of talent is a great place to start.
Casey Welch is president and CEO of Tallo, an online platform that connects talent with opportunities. Find more information online www.tallo.com.