The debate on the employability of college graduates and how this next generation  will fill the workforce needs of the United States seems is heating up and there seems to be a massive gap in the confidence that this generation is up to the task. A 2015 Gallup Study titled Great Jobs, Great Lives reported a near 70 point gap in the confidence in recent graduates career competencies. Only 11% of employers felt graduates were well prepared for the workplace, while over 80% of university presidents did.  Top that off with the growing narrative of the underemployed college graduate. The studies vary from the Economic Policy Institute finding 17% of recent college grads underemployed in 2016 to the Wall Street Journal reporting that number might be as high as 50%.

Luckily, leaders in the state of Florida aim to fix this problem. Led by the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities and supported by the The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust; recently leaders in education, policy, employment, and business  gathered to discuss where these gaps exist and how to best close them. College career services departments and employers just need a little nudge toward each other to find common ground, make small changes, and get big returns.

The solution might lie in the process of nudging. Nudging is the art of providing little reminders and changes to processes and human behavior that result in big changes. The concept was promoted and studies by Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck. Her research centered on students and their perceptions of fixed or malleable intelligence and college success. She found that the more students believed that intelligence could be shaped and grown the more likely the student was to make the efforts needed to meet the demands of coursework. Even more impressive, she found that when students who previously believed that intelligence was fixed was exposed to information that reframed these beliefs then the students were more likely to move toward a more malleable belief in their abilities and improve their classroom performance.This same kind of technique can be applied to how we bring employability into better focus. By deploying some nudges employers can expand their applicant base and career services departments can guide students to opportunities with more regularity. Here are three examples;

  • Florida International University has an online guide and offers planning support for companies looking for interns. This helps the company better understand how to structure internships and get the most out of their hires while also offering a great internship experience for students.
  • At the University of Central Florida the Career Services department offers a number of events aimed at employer brand development and encouraging face to face meetings with candidates. These events include career fairs, information sessions, and tutorials.
  • Finally, at the University of South Florida their Career Services Office has an Employer Relations wing that helps employers build their brands, write more engaging and accurate job announcements, and provide tips on how to engage USF students through highlighting current employees who graduated from USF.

Whether it is finding the right job or the right employee there is a science to employability. And like any science the biggest gains are usually the result of small changes to the formula. These extras can provide big results and provide leaps forward in making sure 100% of our students are not only employed but also have a great job that is career focused and pays well. When that happens everyone wins! And all it takes is a nudge.

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