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At a Glance

Take a deep dive into the world of career readiness -- from the perspective of students, colleges and universities, and employers.

As tuition prices continue to rise, students consider college an investment more than ever, and they want that investment to pay dividends in the form of a job. Thankfully, the gap between what employers want and what colleges teach their students isn't insurmountable. Students continue to graduate and employers continue to hire new talent, despite grievances about their readiness.

But there are many factors that colleges can't control. Hiring standards rise during economic downturns. Wages for new college grads have remained flat for decades. Racism ensures that students of color are hired at lower rates than their white counterparts.

Colleges, witnessing a shift in perception about their own value, have sought adjustments to their model in multiple ways, all in the hopes of better preparing students for the workforce. This special report from Inside Higher Ed describes what colleges of all kinds -- community colleges and four-year institutions, public and private -- are doing to improve the employability of their students. The strategies covered in this report should inform the decisions other colleges make to get ahead of the narrative that they’re not doing enough to prepare students for today’s economy.

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Topics Include

  • Why students choose to go to college
  • The perception of proficiency in career-readiness competencies, from the employers' and students' perspective
  • The vital experiences for college graduates to feel confident about the job market
  • How to measure the skills gap and what it really means
  • What the new foundational skills for the digital economy look like
  • What public colleges, community colleges and private colleges should focus on for career-mindfulness efforts


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Assessing the Skills Gap

     Why students go to college

     Is there a skills gap?

     What should colleges do to prepare students for the workforce?

     Key takeaways

Strategies at Public Institutions

     A consortium creates a conduit for change

     Aligning academics and the career center

     Career mindfulness at community colleges

     Key takeaways

Private College and University Efforts

     Co-ops and combined majors

     Mandatory research or work experience

     Key takeaways


Further Reading

Persons Quoted

About the Author: Mikhail Zinshteyn, a freelance reporter and writer for various outlets, focuses on higher education and workforce development. In 2019, Mikhail’s reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, PBS, Christian Science Monitor, The 74, The Hechinger Report and AARP. From 2017 to 2019, Mikhail reported on higher education and charter schools in California for the news outlet EdSource. He has also been a contributing writer for The Atlantic and The Hechinger Report, covering both K-12 and higher ed issues. Previously, Mikhail was a program manager at the Education Writers Association. He took one community college course in high school. Pell Grants helped fund Mikhail’s undergraduate education. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., and a graduate degree at the London School of Economics.


Number of Pages: 76 (14.5 MB PDF)


Date Released: March 30, 2020

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ISBN: 978-1-7327300-6-9


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