Connecting Students to Jobs

College graduates today face not only the problem of a job-hunting in a slow economy, but also the problem of finding the job that matches their skills. On the same note, corporations and other employers are having trouble finding workers the skills they need. The Commission on Pathways Through Graduate School and into Careers, which brought together leaders in industry and education, released a report on April 19 detailing these findings as well as recommendations for universities, employers, and policymakers.

Graduate students, graduate school deans, and employers were surveyed in the report on topics such as desired career paths, career guidance, and employer expectations. The main issue addressed was the lack of clear pathways for graduate students entering the workforce. In the Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers background video that accompanied the report and briefing, President and CEO of the Educational Testing Service Kurt M. Landgraf stated that these “pathways are not clear” to anyone in the chain.

Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, agreed that there was a need for “greater transparency” because the information that graduate students need “is not collected in any way that would ensure that a student knows exactly what the pathways could be.”

A ScienceInsider article highlighted one cause of this issue as the faculty advisers who are “more likely to recommend academic careers than careers in industry, entrepreneurship, the nonprofit sector, or government.” Another problem is the lack of “soft skills” among recent graduates – communication, teamwork, and project management, to name a few.

Besides stronger government programs for advising and training, the report recommended schools to encourage students to find internships for exploring possible career paths. Internships not only allow students to test out new options and gain exposure to the professional world, but also to develop a broad set of skills that employers require.


Posted by: Pokyee Yu

Sources: The Commission on Pathways Through Graduate School and into Careers, ScienceInsider

Photo Credit: The Commission on Pathways Through Graduate School and into Careers


Community colleges more popular than ever

Community colleges have been getting a lot of press lately, most notably from the President in his State of the Union address this year. These two year post-secondary schools have been charged with the task of preparing students for specific tech jobs, four-year colleges and universities, and “to put unemployed Americans back to work.” However, a report released this month by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) notes that the schools are struggling to graduate students, despite a greater focus on academic excellence and an increase in enrollment. In fact, less that 50% of students who enter community colleges graduate or enroll in a four-year institution within six years.

It seems however that the graduation rate at community colleges has not deterred students. The 1,200 two-year institutions in the United States have seen an increase in enrollment in the past decade. About 5.5 million students attended two-year schools in 2000, now that number has surged to 8 million. The increase is most likely due to the economic climate, since a year of community college costs approximately $5,000 less than in-state tuition at a public, four-year school.

Community colleges were founded to be open-access institutions, but recently they have been growing into serious competitors for four-year schools. The President of the AACC noted that people are figuring out that the “quality of the courses in freshman and sophomore year at community colleges [are] comparable or better than four-year schools.” Over 40% of community college students are first generation college students and more than half are older than 22. It is projected that by 2018, 29% of the American workforce will have associate degrees.

With the growing concern about the financial future of four-year colleges and universities, perhaps community colleges will be answering the call for more opportunities for more students in higher education and the need to prepare student to enter a competitive workforce.


Posted by: Devon Thorsell

Source: U.S. News and World Report

Photo credit: White House “Community College to Career” Bus Tour courtesy of flickr user Barack Obama

Grants for training women in nontraditional occupations

The U.S. Department of Labor announced on April 5 the availability of around $1.8 million in grants to support training and apprenticeship programs for women in “nontraditional occupations.” The grants, which will go towards improving the training and employment of women in “industries such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and construction,” were made available mainly to meet increasing demand for skilled workers. Jobs with changing “work and worker requirements,” as well as “new and emerging green occupations,” were also targeted.

Grant recipients must use funds not only for unemployed and dislocated workers, but also incumbent workers – those who are currently employed but require training in order to secure new employment or advance in their careers.

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), which works with the Women’s Bureau in administering this grant, aims to develop the American workforce through training and employment services. Besides grants, the ETA has a number of job training programs and other resources to contribute to the U.S. labor market.

Posted by: Pokyee Yu

Sources:  The U.S. Department of Labor, the Employment and Training Administration, the Women’s Bureau

Photo Credit: Women in construction courtesy of flickr user University of Salford

Expanding the Accessibility of Computer Science

Business professor Ranfall Stross stressed the importance of computer programming and “computational thinking” skills, citing a number of computer science professors. College graduates don’t all need to be skilled programmers, but basic competency in the fundamentals makes students well-rounded and helps their professional careers. However, students who are not majoring in fields such as math, engineering, and science generally find it difficult to understand the concepts and principles employed in computer science.

Many colleges are offering introductory computer science courses aimed at students of the humanities and liberal arts. Carnegie Mellon encourages students who are not majoring in computer science to try “Principles of Computation,” which covers the history of computer science, as well as the programming language Ruby and other important topics. Professor Mark LeBlanc of Wheaton College teaches computer science by breaking down “large problem[s] into small manageable problems” because he recognizes that students without previous experience are often overwhelmed at first by the unfamiliar material and concepts..

Professor Marie desJardins, who teaches computer science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, uses a simpler computing language – Scratch – in the department’s introductory course. Although Scratch was developed for elementary and middle school students, desJardins explains that most students taking the course have been taught English, math, and science in high school, but not computer science. In other words, students lack “computer literacy” and “computer fluency.” Michael Littman, head of the computer science department at Rutgers University, believes that the problem can be remedied by adding “computational thinking” to the secondary education curricula.


Posted by: Pokyee Yu

Sources: The New York Times

Photo Credit: Spring 2012 Student Hackathon Coding courtesy of flickr user hackNY

Immigration and the American Labor Force

The United States has long touted its reputation as a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities that contributes to the country’s unique economic and social dynamism.  For the past hundred years, and arguably since its founding, the United States has been unprecedentedly capable of attracting the talent and dreams of those around the world.  This phenomenon has made the United States a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship while laying a firm foundation for continued prosperity and growth.  Many immigrants made invaluable contributions to the American business communities, from people like Andrew Carnegie to the modern day founders of companies like Google, Intel, Yahoo!, and eBay.  Others have contributed much to the innovative science and technology fields from Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi to present-day inventors like Vinod Khosla – founder of Sun Microsystems and clean-tech venture capitalist.

While not every immigrant will turn into a business icon or a tinkering titan, their skills continue to be critical for the U.S. economy.  They continue to play a major role in the structure of the American workforce and remain vital to numerous industries.  They are a source of needed skills, especially in the competitive high-tech sectors, and continuing to attract such talent is crucial for American economic competitiveness.  In addition, as the U.S. population continues to age, the labor force will become increasingly dependent upon immigrants to spur labor growth and fill jobs.  A recent analysis by the Brookings Institution provides data on the important place that immigration has in the American labor force and the economy as a whole.

The data and research make a few key points about immigrant workers.  They are a disproportionately growing segment of the labor force, making up about 16.4% compared to only 12.9% of the total population.  Ironically, they are making up a decreasing proportion of labor force growth most recently as overall immigration has slowed for a myriad of reasons, which  could include a less attractive business and labor climate along with murmurs of xenophobia as many Americans struggle to find work.  The study shows they make up a significant portion of the labor pool in industries like warehousing, accommodation, administration, food services, and agriculture on the low- skilled end.  In the high-skilled sectors, they are significantly represented in information technology, high-tech manufacturing, life sciences, and healthcare.  In those industries, immigrants are often more educated than their native counterparts, evidence of the added value they continue to bring to the American pool of intellectual capital.  Conversely, that same level of education seriously lags in the low-skilled industries.

The data and evidence shown in the report reaffirms America’s long-held belief in the importance of immigration, especially in high-skilled industries.  As such, smart immigration reform that continues to welcome these individuals is of great importance to the U.S. and its economic competitiveness.  As more and more countries develop and become able to provide the opportunities only America once did, the competition for top-notch talent will only increase.  The U.S. should implement a sound strategy that ensures that its firms and labs retain access to world-class talent that will drive the U.S. economy into recovery and future prosperity.

Posted by Brian Gowen

Sources: The Brookings Institution

Photo credit Lady Liberty courtesy of flickr user laverrue