Students Today and Jobs Tomorrow

There’s no doubt that the workplace is changing. Employers publicly emphasize that they desire a stronger and more skilled workforce.

What does this mean for students and new graduates? How are they to determine the skills and qualifications that employers are seeking?

A survey of large Canadian firms reveals that, in addition to grades and educational credentials, recruitment increasingly focuses on identifying graduates with strong soft skills who are potential future leaders. Expectations of new employees are also changing rapidly due to the impact of disruption and an increasingly competitive and mobile global labour market.

For a new employee, large companies put leadership, relationship building, collaboration, problem solving and creativity ahead of functional knowledge, project management, customer service and sales, presumably since this latter set can be taught quickly. Co-op programs are taken as a strong indicator of work experience. International and extra curricular experiences are also valued. As educators, we classify these skills as part of educational outcomes.

As with all change, this new normal has the potential to institute winners and losers. Graduates from universities that have an ethos of readily partnering with private firms and public organizations have an edge. These partnerships infuse their teaching and learning with greater exposure to technological, business and social innovation.

How are new graduates recruited?  Companies identify potential employees through a mix of recruitment websites, campus visits, social media and networks, and co-op programs. Nearly half of new graduates recruited by firms come from specific universities with which these companies have a strong partnership. This positive inclination is based on prior experiences with hires from that university and the reputation of the school.

My advice to incoming students this fall semester?  Seek a university that is multicultural, where teaching is not just text based, which facilitates self directed learning, and keeps improving its community spaces and information technology infrastructure to allow students to collaborate.

Spend the next four or five years at that school and, if all goes well, you’ll be well positioned for satisfactory and fulfilling employment.

That’s what we strive for at McMaster Engineering.

Further Reading: Developing Canada’s future workforce: a survey of large private-sector employers, Aon Hewitt, March 2016 (Retrieved April 15, 2016.)

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