How Are Colleges Preparing Millennials for the Workforce?

Born to Baby Boomer parents, members of the Millennial Generation have often been told that they are destined for something special; that they are the key to our future. But they also face tremendous pressure to achieve. Many feel pressure from parents to perform well in school and from peers to contribute to the team. Some are also over-scheduled and would like more balance. Millennials differ dramatically from the previous generation, Generation X, primarily in their positive attitude, strong self-image and expectation of employers.

For this group, the preferred working environment combines teamwork and technology. Millennials like to be useful and helpful. If you have employees who know more about a topic than you do, let them talk about what they know. Millennials also think in many dimensions at once. Provide opportunities for them to be creative in how they approach and fulfill requirements.

I’ve addressed how businesses can attract quality Millennials with this YouTube video.

I’m also curious how colleges are preparing Millennials for the workforce and how companies are attracting Millennials to their workplace. I’ve asked a local college professor for some insight. The following was written by Professor MJ Zygmont of Central Penn College.

I can only speak with certainty about how Central Penn College (Central Penn) is preparing Millennials for the workforce, but I believe that most post-secondary institutions recognize the need to do so. Why is this critical? In the past four years, graduates have had to recognize that they are entering the workforce at a difficult time. This situation is primarily due to the downturn in U.S. economy and the resulting increase in unemployment. Unfortunately, this may remain the standard for the next few years. What this means to graduates is that not only have organizations reduced the number of employees they are hiring, but they are also laying off employees. Further, employees are choosing to work longer versus taking a retirement option. Therefore, college students must use their time in college to gain skills that make them attractive and competitive when seeking employment, and colleges like Central Penn must assist them in this effort.

Central Penn is a career-focused institution. Professors build programs and teach courses informed not only by their academic knowledge, but also their industry experience. This career focus creates an environment in which students are trained to be an educated and experienced employee. Millennials are considered traditional students, the majority attending college immediately after high school with little formal work experience, and; therefore, Central Penn must provide experiential experiences in the classroom, through research projects, mandatory community service, and a mandatory internship. Further, Central Penn requires students adhere to a professional appearance policy in order to instill habits appropriate for the workforce. In addition, through the Career Service department, Central Penn provides networking opportunities so that students, beginning their first term, can begin making connections to employers. Each step along the way, students gain the skills they need to be competitive when seeking employment.Millennials, as all generations do, have a unique approach to their careers. Most are interested in making money and being ‘successful’, but they also have the need to maintain relationships whether it be family, friends, significant others, or through a vast social network. For this generation, technology is ubiquitous. Companies that are interested in attracting Millennials must recognize their value (i.e. knowledge, creativity, technological skills) and be willing to adapt to the needs of these workers. How can companies adapt? Flexibility is perhaps the most important descriptor for what this generations seeks in an organization, as well as a manager. Flexibility to understand that the quality of the employee work-life balance will be a significant deciding factor as to how satisfied they are with their job and whether they can be retained by an organization. Another key factor to attract Millennials is to provide them an opportunity to grow both personally and in their careers. Employees are interested in personal and professional development and an organization that will support these activities is more likely to attract and retain Millennials.

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