Feature Story

College courses lack workforce skill training, leaving students unprepared

UIC students seek outside resources to prepare them for the workforce, as college courses fail to do so.

By Alfonso Gonsalez

(Photo Credit: Alfonso Gonsalez, 2019)

Students seek outside classroom resources to aid them in their transition from college to workforce ready.

While the current times call for students to continue their educational career after high school onto college, this path is proving to be difficult to endure once the diploma is received. With the main focus may be on obtaining their diploma at the end of the student’s academic career that leads to their earned degree, what is to come next?

Students transition from their high school environment directly into their collegiate environment with little to no time in-between. When beginning their collegiate career, students are bombarded with endless opportunities as to courses they can take and career paths that are available to them.

An article published by the Washington Examiner examines a study done relating to students opinions on how their college courses are leading them into preparation towards entering the workforce. While this research and investigation were done over a span of ” 32,585 currently enrolled college students at 43 randomly selected U.S. colleges and universities. “ There was an interest to see if this feeling of unpreparedness was present at a local level, this being the University of Illinois at Chicago. (UIC)

“As millennials, it is becoming increasingly hard to pick a major, let alone a career. To me, this simply means that college has a system of courses that can teach a subject, teach skills, take those skills, and then apply them to the workplace,” expressed Alejandra Hermosillo, a Communications major at UIC.

With the increase of technological developments as time has progressed, has come the increase in diversity of career paths students can choose from; such as the traditionally seen career paths like medicine and teaching, to the modern career paths such as Social Media Management. Likewise, with the increase in diversity of possible majors, is the differing types of workloads that students have to handle according to their majors. Ranging from hands-on laboratory dissections to creation of websites to display your work, assignments take up a large portion of students already minimal time.

“ I would rather work a job that pays well only for the simple fact that if I do not have any source of income I won’t continue to go to school, it is just way to expensive and I also wouldn’t be able to get gas, food, etc.. Although it is a tough situation because the internship would give me experience in the field I am studying for but in order for me to do that I would have to save money to make sure I can be stable.” expressed Emily Robles, a UIC criminology major. Students are in class for the majority of the time and due to this, they have to devote the remaining time of their day to complete their take-home course work.

Alongside heavy coursework, many students also have to juggle a job on a daily basis, which may also deter them from developing their skills for their desired career. Time management also plays a big role in creating space for taking on other opportunities outside of the classroom. Internships are valuable opportunities for students to step into the workforce for a quick second and immerse themselves in an environment that they may be in again later in the future.

“I have had an internship before with Nationwide and I feel that it is very important since you get to work with professionals that have 20+ years of experience. It shows motivation and drives for future employers to see that you have held professional internships,” said Victoria Velasco, a Business student attending UIC.

Working alongside professionals in the students desired job field gives the individual a glimpse of what their future may look like. Tasks such as creating billing invoices in an accounting internship to monitoring seasonal trends in fashion as an editorial intern at a fashion magazine would prove valuable in gaining job experience and creating a lasting impression in the individuals desired work field.

While opportunities are available for students to participate in an internship in their desired field, this option may prove difficult for some students being that internships are oftentimes unpaid. While interns would obtain skills from their time at their specific internship, many individuals disregard internships as an option for them because college students oftentimes have bills or aid in their tuition payments and may require to have an income to make ends meet, that an internship would simply not suffice in.

“Students may not be taking advantage of all of their resources provided by the school. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, the business career center has many resources readily available for students to take advantage of, including resume workshops, mock interviews, and career panels,” exclaimed Samantha Bone, an accounting major at UIC.

Professors and teaching assistants in collegiate settings are designated into their specific niche of teaching and knowledge they can offer, the courses taught by said professors are more often than not just based on their specific semester’s coursework and what they want the students to learn. Due to courses being taught ‘by the books,’ students have to look elsewhere for resources that can aid them in their job search or career opportunities. Having to search outside of the classroom for things such as skill workshops are lengths that not every student may go to, resulting in only some students taking full advantage of resources offered to all students.

“I do believe that my college education will help me prepare for my first career, such as knowing the subject that my career falls under and having studied it, but I also do not think that my education helps enough to where I will be fully prepared for my actual first job and knowing what to do. I feel that in order to be prepared one must have some knowledge of what will actually be taking place in the work field and how to successfully do the job,” explained Jacquelynn Romero, a Sociology major at UIC.

While knowledge may be passed on by instructors to students, there is a disconnect with skills being taught that can be put into use in a work setting. Educators place their focus on embedding the knowledge of the matter on hand, into the students, but seem to forget that they need to interact with others when they are on the hunt for a job. Skills such as workplace etiquette and coworker communication skills are things that are learned from experiences but can be taught as well. When entering a new environment, it is important to make a good lasting impression so the individual can start off on the ‘right foot.’

Although transitioning from one environment to another may be difficult for some, Vanessa Granados, on early childhood educator who worked during her college experience at SXU said it best, “Take your new job at your own pace and definitely do not overwhelm yourself if you’re not so good at it in the beginning. There will always be room for improvement! Also, do not force yourself if it’s not the place for you, there are opportunities everywhere!”