My last post started a pattern. I plan to start expanding the scope of the discussion about the value of a college education. Some future posts will address specifics challenges and remedies to delivering the collegiate educational value. Other posts will address sectors and organizations with impacts on the delivery of the value. This post addresses one such group. The employer and their willingness to pay for a collegiate education are integral to the value proposition.
Employers that recruit college graduates seem to fall into two categories. Both categories highly value the college education and are usually willing to invest in the form of starting salaries in the benefits received from college-educated employees. I say usually as I do occasionally encounter companies offering starting salaries half of the typical starting salary. Perhaps they should reread some of the earlier posts about the cost of college and the need for sufficient return on that investment. Besides these outliers, the two categories that do value the college education vary in their perspective on essence of what they want from the newly graduated student.
The first group of recruiting companies value the liberal arts education (see this post The Liberal Arts or a General Education). The transformation of individual through the development of critical thinking, learning judgement, honing communication skills, and enhancing problem solving ability are valuable to the hiring organization. These organizations value the new thoughts and ideas brought to them by the recent college graduate. Occasionally managers may rue some of the youthful enthusiasm but typically realize they need the energy and work the recent graduate provides. These employers are likely to cast a wide net and look at all or many majors.
The second group has specific needs in addition to the characteristics mentioned above. These can be engineering, chemistry, business, musical theatre, and so on. There are skills that are associated with the career that go beyond the general education learning outcomes. As an example, here is a recent set of requirements posted in a blog for one area of my department, digital marketing.
However, it is this second group that sometimes struggles in their recruiting efforts. They look for these very specific skills and then say all majors may apply. Take for instance the quote that accompanied the skills listed above. “The major can play an influence in an employer’s decision, but the fact that you spent the time and effort to get your degree along with the experience you have received outside of traditional schooling and your work ethic goes further (at least in my opinion) than the specific degree you received.” It is easy to understand the slippage that can occur from the desire for the essential skills from the liberal arts education to the specific major skills. Despite that statement of empathy, I am not sure such a statement as in the quote would be made about an engineer or concert pianist. These types of statements can confuse the student. The all major may apply statement also confounds the value proposition. Employers must become cognizant of their own needs and convey them clearly.
It seems that clarity in hiring expectations is essential for achieving the appropriate return on the investment in specific majors. Employers need to embrace in their recruiting that they are targeting best overall generalists. This is the category one mentioned above. These organizations should accept all majors as applicants. On the other hand those organizations that are category two with hiring needs that match specific skills need to embrace that distinction and narrower their search to the appropriate major. The advice and messaging from the employers needs clarity. It will take this clarity of all the parties involved in the college education process to help insure the students achieve the return sought in the educational investment.