The Mountain Times

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OP-ED: Give our graduates a break

Our graduates are being shortchanged. The workplace they are entering is the most challenging it has been in decades. By comparison, the workplace those who are responsible for education policy, funding, administration and delivery entered, was a piece of cake. These people have no affinity whatever with the challenges today's graduates are facing.

Tom Friedman, the bestselling author and New York Times columnist met recently with Prem Kalra, the director of the new Indian Institute of Technology in Rajasthan. He told Friedman that he tells recruiters for major companies to stay away from his campus. He wants his Indian students to think about inventing their first jobs, not applying for them.

That's exactly what we should be doing. Instead, our colleges and universities keep turning out graduates who expect that someone is going to offer them a job and when that doesn't happen, many end up unemployed or in low paying jobs in the service sector. The fundamental challenge is that for generations we have been turning out employees. Now, increasingly, we have to turn out entrepreneurs or graduates who have an enterprising approach to finding work.

The area of career/employment counseling needs a complete overhaul with an objective of meeting the needs of today's graduates. A Canadian graduate who sought help summed up her experience by saying that "I decided I really didn't want to speak to the nice lady who had been doing that job for the last twenty years."

Our graduates need access to people who are experienced in today's workplace and who can show them how to market themselves effectively to employers and how to create their own jobs as freelancers, consultants, or small business owners. Showing graduates how to succeed in today's workplace should be an integral part of their education, not an option as it currently is. And we need more resources in this area.

Graduates can't wait for the education system to enter the twenty-first century; they need to take charge of their own success. And, with a little bit of help, they're absolutely capable of doing that.

Ron McGowan is the author of the international bestseller "How to Find WORK in the 21st Century", currently in use at over 400 colleges and universities worldwide.

Tagged: op ed, Ron McGowan, graduates