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Are Universities Preparing Students for the Workforce?

I remember when I had my first “big girl” marketing internship the summer after my junior year of college. I was so excited to intern at the corporate headquarters of Bank of America until I learned that I was placed in the Search Center, specifically the Search Engine Optimization team. Having literally no SEO-related skills or experience, I was immediately filled with anxiety. 

My university didn’t offer a digital marketing course, let alone a course in SEO or SEM. In order to set myself up for success, I turned to Google’s free online courses and certifications in all things search. Luckily, this route helped me learned the jargon I needed to be comfortable working with the SEO team, and my boss was patient with me. The thought still lives in my mind though: what was the point of me paying to go to college if they couldn’t even prepare me for a summer internship?

I’m not the only one that feels this way. In fact, many employers feel the same skepticism about universities. A Wiley report found that 45% of surveyed employers in the US don’t believe that universities prepare students for the workforce.

Filling the Gap Between Universities and the Workforce

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To address this gap in career readiness, some companies are forgoing the traditional model of hiring then training. They are now choosing to train then hire. This benefits both employers and candidates, especially those who could not afford a university degree or did not go to a top-tier college.

For employers, they can now train candidates at scale (due to modern technology) and source the best candidates who already know what they’re doing before they walk in the door. For candidates, they are able to build the skills and confidence they need to be successful in both the application process and the role itself.

Have you ever started a new job just to realize that you hate the role or the company culture? Candidates can now “try on” a career or get to know a company beyond promotional material to assess if it’s a good career fit. 

Companies Adopting the ‘Train Then Hire’ Recruiting Model

  1. Forage: Forage is a free career education platform that is solely based on the “Train then Hire” model. The company understands that, while talent is universal, opportunity isn’t. This company works with top-tier employers to create self-paced virtual experience programs to help students and candidates prepare for the workforce. Notable employers that have programs on Forage include JP Morgan Chase, Citi, BCG, PwC, Accenture, and even dozens of law firms. 

  2. Google: In 2020, Google announced their new Google Career Certificates program allowing job seekers to get “professional-level training from Google.” These programs are designed to replace college degrees and unlike Forage, they do cost money. Google currently has an IT Support program up and running with programs in Data Analytics, Project Management, and UX Design in the works.

  3. IBM: IBM has a comprehensive certification and digital badge program with over 1,000 options, mostly covering a range of technology skills and areas. They also offer an exam option for professional certifications. 

Final Thoughts 

The “train then hire” model is truly an innovative response to the rising cost of college degrees and the lack of career readiness from recent college graduates. What would be interesting to see is a better integration between education and career readiness or the rise of career programs over the traditional four-year degree.

Guest Author: Nhon Nguyen, Student Growth Lead at Forage

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