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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Business Leaders and College Grads Agree: More Workforce Prep is Needed

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February 26, 2014

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Business Leaders and College Grads Agree: More Workforce Prep is Needed

Two new Gallup-Lumina polls, one of the general U.S. public and one of American business leaders, indicate that postsecondary education could be doing better at preparing students for the workforce.

Only 14 percent of respondents from the general public strongly agreed with the statement "college graduates in this country are well-prepared for success in the workforce." Of business leaders, only 11 percent strongly agreed that U.S. higher education institutions are graduating students with the skills and competencies needed by business. These findings differ dramatically from results of an Insider Higher Ed survey, in which 96 percent of chief academic officers reported they were doing a good job preparing students for success in the workforce.

The general public and business leaders surveyed by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation agreed on the importance of knowledge and skills in the hiring process. Eighty percent of the general public selected candidate knowledge in the career field as a very important factor in hiring, followed closely by applied skills in the field. Only 30 percent said the candidate's alma mater was very important for hiring decisions. U.S. executives similarly focused on knowledge and applied skills as the most important factors in hiring, with school and major as less important factors.

Business leaders were also asked to identify what can better prepare students for workplace success. The most common answer to this open-ended question was that schools should offer opportunities for internships and on-the-job experience. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, college graduates agree: 50 percent of college graduates surveyed said that gaining more experience while an undergraduate would have better prepared them to get the job they wanted. Millennials are particularly likely to wish they had gained more experience while in school.

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