Peer Talk: Calling for Action to Help New College Graduates Succeed

Aleesha Yussuff

Graduation is an approaching reality for college students across the globe. As I began browsing the web for entry-level positions, I noticed a common requirement across almost all postings that I’m sure every college student has seen before, “requires 1-2 years of experience.” Many students, including myself, haven’t fulfilled that criteria. A driving force of recent graduate unemployment and underemployment is the gap between the skills students possess and those that employers require. Students invest thousands of dollars into their education; however, they aren’t receiving a return on their investment. Students are giving up on their career search. And the sad reality is, recent graduates have lost sight of their full potential. Higher education institutions have recognized that education isn’t enough anymore through the increasing media coverage, but why haven’t we seen change? Action needs to be taken. Here are four steps higher education institutions can take to provide a stronger system to support student career success.

(1) Colleges need to bridge the communication gap between them and employers. The most effective learning experiences are a result of real world content application. My university does this through the use of company case studies, which can be an extremely effective tool in putting content in context. Cases promote the development of critical thinking skills by forcing students to apply content learned in class to resolve real work-related problems. Cases encourage each individual to explore their own ideas through a specialized approach. Colleges need to collaborate with large and small firms to incorporate industry relevant skills and company specific case studies as degree requirements. This will provide a dual benefit for both parties — companies will lower costs associated with employee education-based training programs and universities will increase alumni employment statistics.

(2) Providing students with co-op/internship degree opportunities have been a recent trend for both college programs and employers. Colleges have realized that students need experience before they graduate due to the changing requirements of entry-level positons. In parallel, employers have realized that they need to invest in the future leaders of their companies. A decade ago, companies either didn’t offer intern positions or unpaid internships. Today, most companies offer a wide range of internships in different sectors of the organization. These opportunities are invaluable to developing industry relevant skills, gaining references, building resumes, and they can even line up a full-time job offer before graduation.

Students need to be empowered. What better way to do that than having recruiters come to them. (3) Colleges need to bring recruitment on campus. Career fairs are what remind students of their full potential. Career fairs can be an effective way to help student’s kick-start or even, further their career search. I attended a career fair last week that made me aware of job opportunities I wouldn’t have even thought of applying too. I obtained direct contact information of company recruiters that gave me insider information to the recruitment process. Another major benefit of a career fair is that it provides candidates that would typically be deemed as non-traditional the opportunity to stand-out to employers. Building your personal network is essential to career development. Most of us have probably heard the saying, “it doesn’t matter what you know, it’s all about who you know.”

College career service centres are present on almost every campus, yet they remain an under-utilized resource. (4) Career Centres need to improve student outreach. Students need practical resources that teach them what they don’t learn in class. This includes resume/cover letter editing, mock interviews, networking tips, career searching advice, and a counsellor with comprehensive industry knowledge to support them through the process. If students are regularly informed about the resources career service centres offer, they will be more inclined to take advantage of them.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in 2014 a whopping 35% of college graduates were unemployed. This is a call for action. A cry for help. Interpret it as you wish. Reality is, if colleges don’t provide students with a stronger support system, an increasing number of students will lose sight of their capabilities and that percentage will continue to climb. Higher education institutions need to take the first step to setting students up for a successful career search. By bridging the communication gap between them and employers, providing students with job opportunities, empowering students and having career centres improve student reach, students will finally be able to kick-start their journey to recovering lost hope.



Aleesha Yussuff
York University–Schulich School of Business • Toronto, ON, Canada
International Bachelor’s of Business Administration with a Specialization in Accounting

Aleesha is an International Business and Accounting major whose unprecedented passion for helping others, persistence and dedication has been conducive to her academic and extra-curricular achievements. She placed 8th in the COIN competition where she wrote an accounting exam organized by Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario.

Aleesha possesses a strong belief in the equity of education, universally. This belief was triggered from her experience in global outreach as she witnessed issues in the quality of education in impoverished communities. Aleesha initially confronted poverty when she travelled abroad to the Dominican Republic where she volunteered for ten days. Recently, Aleesha travelled to Talanga, Honduras with a group of students where their initiative was to build a feeding centre that provides a safe haven for children to be fed and provides assistance with their homework completion.

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