Making the financial case for job search education on campus
Tuesday, December 05, 2017
I recently posted a discussion on LinkedIn asking the question, "If a career is the objective of a college education, then why isn't how to conduct a job search being taught on campus?" I received many comments, both appended to the post as well as hearing directly from some of you.
I promised several readers to set forth the financial case for why colleges and universities should move swiftly and forcefully to implement a robust career and job search curriculum, which is the purpose of this post.
Boldness is the beginning of victory — an object lesson
Rewind the tape 20 years back. Many of you will recall the heated debates about whether online education was consistent with the mission of higher ed.
Private, four-year nonprofit Liberty University had a total enrollment of under 9,000 students in 1995 and was struggling to remain viable against more financially stable competitors. Liberty seized the opportunity of online education while their competitors bickered over the merits and evils of online education.
Just two years ago they reported nearly 100,000 students enrolled, coupled with a $1 billion institutional net worth, rivaling that of older universities like Georgetown and Pepperdine. They are now a mainstay among the top educational institutions.
According to many reports, America's higher education system is in trouble. Increasing operating costs, declining enrollment, higher tuition subsidies, rising student debt and the ominous specter of greater government regulation is driving more and more institutions to the brink of financial collapse. Some sources have even predicted that half of our educational institutions may cease to operate by 2030.
With each new college and university closing, senior administrators and boards are becoming painfully aware that they must begin doing things differently if their institution is to survive into the future (let alone thrive).
In the same way Liberty responded to the challenges it faced with bold action in the face of opportunity, America's institutions of higher education can respond to a similar opportunity to enrich the lives of students, alumni, communities and the world by teaching people how to get better jobs faster in their fields of interest.
Huge financial rewards await those institutions who lead the way.
Increase enrollment, increase retention
Each year for the past 30 years U.S. News & World Report has published its annual college rankings. Robert Morse, the director of data research, tracks the top reasons for students' choice of where to enroll.
For the past 10 years, at least half of the more than 200,000 students responding annually selected "I chose this school because its graduates get good jobs" as a principal reason for enrolling. Colleges and universities who actively educate students on career and job search as part of each student’s required curriculum hold a decided advantage over those who don’t.
Bottom line: Most students go to college because it will help them get employed and do better in their career than those without a college education.
When students make their annual pilgrimage to visit different campuses, it looks downright lame to tell students to enroll there when there is no academic commitment to teach students how to navigate the job search. Under-resourced career centers with 2,000 students to one full-time career services staff person send the opposite message: Don't enroll here if you want to get a job after graduating.
Schools like Wake Forest University require students to complete one semester of career education for each college year for a total of four semesters of career education. WFU's approach has resulted in a very high placement percent — 95 percent last year versus 66 percent nationally.
Their commitment to assuring high graduate employment drives enrollment makes tuition there an investment with a historically high rate of return. Students recognize they won't get career and job search education at most other schools like they will there, so there is an incentive to stay where they will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to conduct a more effective job search.
New revenue streams = engaging the community + engaging alumni
Every month since late 2007, the number one or number two issue of concern to adults across America has been employment, according to the Gallup Organization. Pew Research confirmed that more than two-thirds of all Americans are concerned or very concerned about jobs. Right Management, Jobvite and others say more than half the adult population in the U.S. is actively or passively conducting a job search.
So try this experiment with your campus: Draw a circle with a 10-mile radius around your campus. How many working adults are there who are minutes away from your campus on their daily commute? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?
Statistically speaking, more than half are open to changing employment, but they don't know how or where to begin. Your school could change that!
Does your campus have unused classrooms at night? Fill them with adults who live or work within minutes of your campus and teach them how to navigate a job search. Use adjunct faculty, and you immediately have new revenue streams and a more engaged local community.
And those working adults — if your school helps connect them to better employment and a better standard of living (when other area schools ignore them), where will they want to send theirkids to school?
And there's more! Career and job search education lends itself to online education like sunshine in the summer. You can engage your alumni by offering them something that at least half have an interest in: how to navigate a job search. Doesn't matter where in the world they are because you can offer local ones on-campus courses and those scattered to the four corners of the globe virtual classroom education.
When you help connect alumni to their careers (and better sources of income), they reciprocate with greater giving, plus they want their children to attend the school that helped them stay employed.
Decreased tuition subsidies
When demand is increased for attending your school because you teach career and job search education, you need to subsidize tuition less. Subsidizing tuition is same as discounting tuition — less dollars in revenues to the school per student.
Look across America and you can find tens of thousands of examples each year of students willing to pay higher tuition to go to schools that will establish them in better careers. Hard to make that claim if students are not taught how to get the job once they graduate. Easy to justify tuition when students get placed into employment of their choice faster.
Improved employer engagement
When employers interview students who have been taught how to navigate a job search, those students tend to stand head and shoulders about students who don't how. As employers view your institution's graduates as better than those of your competitors, then those employers become more open to the programs you have for their employees.
For example, in some of the schools we work with to implement career and job search education, we've seen employers so pleased with the school's graduates that they have partnered with the school to underwrite some of the programs. In other cases, they have engaged the school to provide continuing education to their employees.
"Teaching them to fish" serves society's needs best
Twelfth-century philosopher Maimonodes is credited with the famous adage: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." When people are taught how to conduct an effective job search, they are capable of successfully navigating the gauntlet of a modern job search.
The labor participation rate — the percent of adults capable of working who are able to find jobs and are working — is at a 37-year low, meaning lower standards of living for millions of families. It's not that there are no jobs to be had; today there are millions of unfilled jobs creating a drag on the U.S. GDP to the tune of $160 billion a year.
Anyone who has conducted a job search in the past five years can tell you that the search process is daunting. Technology and globalization are rewriting search best practices monthly. Yet teach them to fish (for a job) and they can and will feed themselves for a lifetime.
This is one person's call for higher ed to seize the moment and move both swiftly and forcefully to embark on a mission to teach America how to conduct an effective job search.
Will you join me in this call?
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