What Businesses Want

Business leaders are “underwhelmed” by recent college graduates looking for jobs.

According to a piece at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Many university graduates don’t measure up to the expectations of business leaders who hire them…. The online survey asked 500 American business leaders to evaluate the quality of their work force, specifically employees hired out of college or graduate school with no prior work experience. The respondents… said that although graduates have some of the skills needed for an entry-level job, they are more well versed in technology than in directly applicable skills like solving problems and communicating. Some respondents blamed institutions of higher education for not adequately preparing students with the practical skills needed to succeed in the business world.

This is, I worry, going to turn out to be one of those things were higher education critics argue that, therefore, colleges need to do a better job “training people for work.”

But then, maybe employers have inappropriate expectations. Colleges don’t exist to train people for work. They train them to think. Despite employers “feeling” that college graduates aren’t prepared, there’s no indicated that employees are ultimately not able to perform effectively, once they learn the basics of how the business functions.

As someone who often hires interns right out of college I’ve got to confess that I too sometimes feel that recent college graduates lack the skills needed to directly succeed in jobs. And then a month later I’m not worried anymore. College graduates figure these things out.

According to the survey “executives believe that the business world has changed far more in the past 15 years than institutions of higher learning” and colleges haven’t “kept up” with these changes. But this is a perception that it’s probably best not to worry about too much.

That’s because 15 years ago businesses were also pretty dissatisfied with recent college graduates, too. They always are. That’s what successfully running a business is all about; having slightly exaggerated expectations for employees.

So the recent graduates aren’t prepared. But then they figure it out. Problem solved.

View the survey results here

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer