Career programs at UI leaving students prepared for workforce

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Nick Rohlman

Iowa sophomore Katie Uehara works at the IMU welcome desk on Thursday, Jan. 25. 2018.

Managers across the U.S. report that recent college graduates are not entering the workforce with the skills they need to succeed, but the University of Iowa is boosting programming to counter that with its own graduates.

According to data from Payscale — an online salary, benefits, and compensation company — graduates are 37 percentage points more confident than managers about possessing skills that are applicable to their chosen profession.

While 87 percent of recent graduates say they are entering the workforce with the right skills, only 50 percent of managers report feeling graduates are prepared for full-time employment.

One of the ways the UI aims to prepare students for the workforce is through career and leadership courses, career advising, and more in the Pomerantz Career Center.

Angi McKie, the director of Career Center operations, said the Pomerantz staff uses data from their own surveys and compares it with data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers to identify the skills employers seek.

“Not only are employers looking for someone who’s going to come in with the technical skills, but they are seeking someone who knows how to engage in the workplace with others and be on a team, communicate professionally, and analyze information in a succinct way,” McKie said.

In addition to opportunities such as internships, students can take advantage of student employment relevant to their coursework and chosen career paths.

Through the Iowa Guided Reflection on Work program in the Division of Student Life, UI staff and faculty emphasize connections between experiential learning on the job and students’ coursework to help them make the most of their employment, said Sarah Hansen, the assistant vice president for Student Life.

“Student employment can be a high-impact practice for students,” Hansen said. “It doesn’t have to be a distraction from academic pursuits, but it really is providing them with the capacity to integrate their learning in really meaningful ways.”

Eric Rossow, assistant director for IMU outreach programs, said the students he works with as an Iowa GROW supervisor are the first people visitors interact with on campus in the IMU Welcome Center. Whether students work there or elsewhere on campus, he said students are definitely gaining skills, which the Iowa GROW conversations help reinforce.

“I think when you have these conversations with them, they’re more aware of those skills and how these skills can benefit them when they graduate and go onto their professional career,” he said.

Efforts to employ students seem to be paying off for the UI. The UI reported a job placement rate of 94.6 percent in its student outcomes report. According to National Association of Colleges and Employers’ annual first destinations survey, 81 percent of the Class of 2016 undergraduates were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.

All of these programs and initiatives are ways UI staff and faculty engage with students to prepare them to enter the workforce, McKie said, and to empower them with the knowledge of building skills, networking, and finding the right job after college.

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