That Won’t Do the Job

Many college graduates enter the job market with unbridled optimism and confidence, believing that their recently attained bachelor’s degrees will open the doors to the jobs of their dreams. In contrast, they are finding that employers are looking for more than just those 180 units completed with at least a “C” average. Employers want to see experience in a professional job environment on a resume — something the majority of graduates do not hold. To boost graduates’ chances in the job market, universities need to be more proactive about improving students’ career skills and preparing them for the transition into a professional setting.

According to the Apollo Research Institute’s study “Life in the 21st-Century Workforce,” 65 to 75 percent of employers across major U.S. cities found that it was difficult to find employees with “essential critical thinking and collaborative skills.” In college, these skills are utilized on exams and projects, but what’s missing is the application of these skills to real-life problems. A college education isn’t wholly useless though, as the material students learn in their major will be seen at the career level as well. But the fact that colleges seldom simulate real-world scenarios calls for the need for additional programs such as internships to ensure that graduates are competitive in the job market.

Studies have shown that internship experience can make a significant impact on resumes. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, roughly 60 percent of graduates of the class of 2012 who had taken a paid internship received at least one job offer. In comparison, only 36 percent of graduates without internship experience received any job offers. However, only a minority of students in the country take part in these important programs. U.S. News reports that out of the 330 college and universities surveyed, only 36.9 percent of the class of 2011 took part in an internship.

In fact, UCSD actually falls below this average, with only 17 percent of graduates reporting having participated in an internship, according to a 2010 UCSD post-baccalaureate survey. Due to the rigorous academic climate and study culture of UCSD, many students would rather focus their efforts into classes first. Since high school, many students have been taught an over-simplified pathway to becoming successful, in which you study hard, get accepted into college, earn a degree and then find a job. Making spectacular grades will get students a degree, but it is no guarantee for a job. This has led many graduates to develop the notion that a degree equates a job, and thus the value of workplace experience is diminished in their eyes.

While UCSD does provide some useful services for finding internships, such as PortTriton and the Academic Internship Program, it needs to make more of an effort to reinforce the necessity of internships to ensure success. UCSD and other universities might benefit from making internships a requirement for graduation. According to U.S. News & World Report, three of the schools within New York’s Clarkson University require “professional experience” for graduation. As a result, 86 percent of seniors who recently graduated from the school held an internship at some point in their college careers.

As part of its graduation requirements, UCSD’s Sixth College makes its students complete a practicum, which can be satisfied by an internship. More of the six colleges at UCSD may want to follow Clarkson University’s and Sixth College’s example, and incorporate internship experience as one of its graduation requirements to encourage students to take part in them. Another issue is that students are genuinely interested in internships, but cannot afford the commitment because of financial constraints. Students may not be able to afford taking up a low paying or even unpaid internship, while also sustaining themselves through college.

To combat this, universities should take the initiative to offer grants that can support students who take part in internships and ease their financial burdens. Considering one of the duties of colleges is to prepare students for their careers, they should be obligated to support students through these career-preparatory internships. A university’s investment in internship grants is just as necessary as the money it puts towards funding quality faculty and facilities.

A degree from an esteemed university may have cut it in the past, but it alone cannot secure a job for new graduates. However, combined with the experience from an internship, graduates are sure to find the job market more promising.

To best prepare their graduates for the competitive job market, universities must encourage more students to take part in internships, and support students throughout them as well.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal