To Prepare Students for Success in the Real World, Incorporate the Real World

Oct 24, 2016 Hanna Heycke

Higher education is going through a transformation. Gone are the days where a high school diploma gave way to a college degree which seamlessly led to a job. Under pressure from students and employers, including tougher competition in the job market and a shift in career expectations from millennials and Gen Z, higher education institutions are making some serious moves to prepare students for the real world.

Today’s students came of age with all sorts of technology at their fingertips, and they expect answers, and results, quickly. Higher education needs to account for this shift in expectations, and it seemingly has an uphill battle to do so. But, that’s not the whole story. According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, millennials want to feel deeply committed to their job, and to feel as if it is well-suited to their talents and interests. They also want to work for a boss who is invested in their development.

This isn’t shocking, and actually doesn’t differ much from previous generations. But, as the job market shifts, how can higher education adapt to meet the changing expectations of students and employers so the needs of both are met? At InkHouse, we’re privileged to work with some leading higher education institutions, including Bentley University and MassArt. Here are some of the ways these institutions are changing:

  • Make curriculum relevant to the real world. Regardless of whether a higher education institution is focused on business, the arts, or technology, there is a tangible shift in the job market, and educators feel the pressure from employers and students to adjust the content and style of courses. At business-focused schools, that may mean an integration of more traditional communications skills while, at liberal arts schools, that could mean mandatory courses in financial literacy or introductory coding.
  • Encourage internships and real-world application of coursework. As the job market gets more competitive, more than ever, it’s important that students can access relevant internships or coursework that reflects real-world work on their resumes. This will take a different form depending on the career of choice for a student but, regardless of industry or practice area, higher ed institutions are making sure that their students have the experience to ease the transition to a job post-graduation. For instance, arts schools might bring in a renowned artist to work with students on an installation, while at more technology-focused institutions, students might be tasked to design a functioning app that solves a real-world problem.
  • Teamwork. No one works in a silo any more. We’ve seen the numerous articles and studies lauding the benefits of open office space, which is supposed to encourage collaboration, teamwork, and support a better flow of communication and ideas. Now, educators are taking it a step further and emphasizing the importance of teamwork before students even get to the workplace. They assign more group projects and coursework that requires collaboration so that, by the time students enter the workforce, they can hit the ground running.

So how can we determine higher education’s success at preparing students to succeed in the workplace? As the job market continues to evolve, it will depend on how willing students, educators, and employers are to communicate about what they’re looking for - and how quickly each is able to adapt.

Topics: Education, PR, Leadership

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