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Workplace expert: Colleges are doing poor job of preparing graduates for work

Ron McGowan is the author of How to Find Work in the 21st Century, a must-read book for today's job seeker

Ron McGowan, the Principal of How to Find Work, has been downsized twice and has successfully made the transition from a corporate career into self-employment. He spent half of his career in sales with various major computer and telecommunications companies. The other half was with BCIT, British Columbia's largest post-secondary educational institution, on the faculty and managing a large continuing education department.

He doesn't hide his thoughts: Today's college graduate isn't prepared for the workforce and colleges and universities are to blame.

"Our graduates are one of the most important assets we have, but we’ve been squandering that asset for decades," says McGowan, author of the bestselling book How to Find WORK – In the 21st Century.

Instead of being outraged at the numbers of our graduates who are unemployed or underemployed, we’ve become complacent about it, accepting it as the new normal, says McGowan.

"The cost of our complacency to the economy must be huge," says McGowan. "Most colleges and universities are doing a poor job of preparing our graduates for today’s workplace."

Nathan Hatch, the President of Wake Forest University, commented on the approach universities take towards their career-services area: “For years, most liberal-arts schools seemed to put career-services offices somewhere just below parking as a matter of administrative priority.”

Hatch has made the careers services area at Wake Forest University a top priority and has allocated the resources needed to ensure its success, says McGowan.

Michael S. Roth, the President of Wesleyan University, has created a new career center prominently located on campus and wants the career program “to work with our students from the first year to think about how what they’re learning can be translated into other spheres.”

Six U.S. undergraduate business schools require students to attend classes that prepare them for the process of finding work and they must complete these classes before they can graduate. Six U.K. further education colleges are working with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to help their graduates create their own jobs. Fintan Donohue, the head of one of them said, “Everyone is in favor of entrepreneurship, but what we’re saying is that colleges like ours need to embrace an entrepreneurial culture.”

What these examples show is that there’s no excuse for sending our graduates out into the workplace as unprepared as they are currently, says McGowan.

"Having a degree, even from a top-tier university, isn’t going to help graduates find employment in their field unless they’ve also been given the tools and strategies they need to understand today’s workplace and how to succeed in it," says McGowan. "It’s time we demanded that they be given these tools and strategies."

The sixth edition of How to Find Work is now available from the Thames River Press, Amazon and other booksellers. It is also available for purchase online

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