Preparing Students for Jobs: The Role of Education

Now that September is here, school is back in session. Education should be a key factor for preparing the next generation for jobs.

Education Very Responsible for Jobs Preparation and Skills…

In fact, a recent study by the Pew Research Center finds that the majority of Americans feel that school bears a great deal of responsibility in ensuring that U.S. workers have the right skills to be successful in the contemporary economy. To be precise, 60% thought that public education at the kindergarten through senior in high school level is responsible for preparing students for jobs, while 52% thought college did.

The largest number, 72%, thought that individuals themselves bear a lot of responsibility. Nearly half, 49%, thought that employers bear a lot of responsibility.

Interestingly enough, there was a divergence by political party on which entity had the most responsibility. The survey, conducted last year, found that 66% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents gave a lot of responsibility to K-12 schools, while 54% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents did. Democrats also ascribed a lot of responsibility to colleges and universities, at 58%, while 44% of Republicans did.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, on the other hand, placed a higher level of responsibility on individuals at 77%, versus the 70% placed by Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

Employers in the government and nonprofit sectors lead in thinking education prepares students well for their jobs.

…and Mostly Doing a Good Job

But responsibility is one thing. Actually doing it is another. Do people perceive that education goes a good job in workforce preparation?

Overall, 67% of respondents to the Pew survey said that a college degree prepares students “at least somewhat well” for a good-paying job.

There were variations among parties and party sympathies, though. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and those leaning toward the party thought this, versus 62% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

The Pew Research Center findings are interesting compared to the perceptions of employers, which were compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) and American Public Media’s Marketplace radio program in 2012, published in a report called The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions.

How Do Employers Feel?

The CHE/APM study showed that nearly 70% of employers felt that colleges were doing a “good to excellent” job of preparing students for the contemporary workforce, but 31% felt that the job was only fair to poor.

Employers in the government and nonprofit sectors rated college workforce preparation the highest, with 80% saying they were doing a good to excellent job. The most favorable rating, 72%, was given by the human resources sector.

Employers in the services and retail, healthcare, and media sectors rated college’s job in workforce preparation the lowest. Thirty-nine percent of employers in the services and retail sector said colleges were just fair to poor, while 35% of employers in both the healthcare and media sectors thought so as well.

Overall, Americans think that both K-12 schools and colleges and universities are responsible for preparing students for the current workforce, although they place the most responsibility with the individual. The majority of people think schools are doing a good job of this preparation. While the majority of employers also think schools are doing a good to excellent job, almost a third of employers think the job is only fair to poor.