One of the greatest fears a soon to be graduate embarks on upon graduation is not finding a job. While the student that surpasses the grade point average threshold set by an employer or the candidate that fills every square inch of their resume worries less, there is a point in time when every student questions their extracurricular activities, internship experiences, or the amount of languages they’ve mastered by the age of 21. The average Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) major certainly excels in many technical areas due to their interests and methodological strengths, but what these students fail to understand is that their sole undergraduate education is their primary selling point. In turn, employers neglect to realize that recent graduating classes very well may be the future of the technical world.
It is well known that many technical schools prioritize professors, materials taught, and educational resources. What many employers don’t know however is the immense practical knowledge provided to students through three major channels. These channels compose of the assimilation of the latest technology, emphasis on group projects, and various hands on approaches being taken in the classroom setting. Let’s face it, we are in one of the greatest tech bubbles of all time and guess who has been gaining the most out of it? You predicted it, our recently graduated STEM students! Those that pursued a technology centric major have been exposed to some of the newest and dynamic applications that can enhance many of the current work place mechanisms. Moreover, those in majors that are not solely computing heavy, are being encouraged to take business and financial classes to achieve a well-rounded background to tackle any job in their professional career. Similarly, group projects help graduates gain the ideal skillset for the working world. Recently, colleges have adapted the approach of placing students in groups to work on semester long projects to mirror the timeline and parameters of a project in the “real world.” Working on a project for months at a time teaches students how to solve a bigger picture problem. It allows them to evaluate and test more than one potential solution. Furthermore, groups are randomly assigned to train students how to work with and communicate with personalities they may not mesh well with.
To really incentivize students to collaborate on hands on projects, colleges are handing out thousands of dollars for ideas that integrate science and technology and real-world problems. The greatest example of this is what many schools call senior design. Senior design is a two-semester class that takes the group project approach to another level. At the beginning of the semester, students choose a project to work on, put together proposals, and work brining their visions and ideas to life. Universities partner up with corporate companies to come up projects that incorporate real case studies. If students are successful in solving their company’s assignments, students are awarded with cash prizes, potential job opportunities, and the option to bring their projects to life. Senior design allows students to integrate what they’ve learned inside a classroom with what business scenarios look like outside of the classroom. And let’s not forget how the 21st century student can bring their everlasting knowledge of social media to the table. From increasing communication efficiencies within team members to coming up with creative marketing and presentation materials, graduates can use their social media savvy mindsets to produce valuable results. These results can grab the attention of future employers and deliver countless amount of opportunities to make a direct impact in the corporate world.
As a recent graduate myself, I can attest to never-ending prospects my undergraduate education has supplied me to cultivate success upon graduation. In fact, after spending five years studying and working in the Electrical Engineering field, I jumped ship and decided to work for Bricz, a supply chain consulting company. Although I had very little background in supply chain itself, I was confident in my exposure to software heavy projects, real world scenarios, and collaboration sessions with high level engineers. My confidence combined with my companies’ commitment to my success deemed effective when I adapted quickly to the supply chain world within the first few weeks on the job. With the help of co-workers who were focused on using my strengths to the company’s benefit, I was able to learn the software quickly, grasp the concepts efficiently, and add value on many counts.
All in all, recent grads are gaining more than just the black and white buried within a textbook throughout their educational experience. They are accumulating various skill sets that are beneficial to the work force and should be explored upon the hiring process. I say we take a step back from focusing on the amount of money a millennial is willing to spend on avocados but instead focus on how their technology centered brains can help take our companies a leap forward.