Ready for work?

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Editor’s note: An August Gallup poll revealed only half of Americans believe today’s college graduates are “prepared for the working world.” We asked UT professors and campus leaders if they share this belief.

“Of course they’re prepared for work after college. The poll is flawed because it doesn’t specify what kind of work students might be prepared for. Technical schools train people for specific kinds of work — plumbing, roof repair, gardening, cooking and so forth. Universities largely do not. They do train nurses and teachers, among other professions, but for the most part they prepare students to embark on a variety of careers, some of which require post-graduate training (doctor, lawyer, university professor). Most workplaces, however, provide job-specific training for qualified candidates. They do not select candidates based on their prior training for that particular job, but choose those who seem most capable and prepared to apply their abilities to new tasks and learn a variety of new skills. This is important to keep in mind because jobs do not remain the same over time. Many jobs that existed 25 years ago are long gone, and many jobs available now could not have even been imagined 25 years ago, when we didn’t have laptops or cell phones. That is why universities provide students with the skills (critical thinking, writing, second languages, scientific knowledge, and so forth) that they will need to think creatively, communicate well and thrive in new and changing environments. The poll does not allow for this kind of response, unfortunately.”
Jill Robbins , Professor and Chair. Department of Spanish and Portuguese

“Yes, who our students get an education that helps them be prepared for many jobs. Many of our students have fluency in critical languages like Arabic, Persian and Turkish, know how to read critically and write well, and are capable planners, researchers and analysts.”
Kristen Brustad, Chair, Department of Middle Eastern Studies

“I speak both as the mother of a recent college graduate and as a professor. Yes, I think graduates from my department (English) are ready for the world of work. They have been taught to read carefully, to analyze what they read and to write competently. These skills should stand them in good stead in many jobs and professions. Moreover, most of them are extremely computer literate, intellectually flexible, used to putting long hours into a task and willing to take the initiative.
In my (admittedly quite limited) experience, the world of work is not always ready for our students. Often they meet an undemanding and undisciplined work environment, a lack of clear instructions, and a situation unfriendly to initiative. If this is combined with a poor salary, the results are not likely to be wonderful. Our graduates will rise to a challenge, but they also get bored quickly if they are underused. In a difficult job market, many of our graduates may find themselves underused.”
Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair, Department of English

“You can’t group all college graduates together, but in my personal opinion UT students are qualified. UT offers quality education at an affordable price, We need to improve on translating that education to finding a job and career.”
— Michael Morton, President, Senate of College Councils