Employability Skills and What Students Need to Know While in School

student reading notes in auditorium

As a university professor, your job is always to create an informative curriculum to teach your subject matter, right? You prime each student in your class to be an academic success and get an A. But one thing most professors overlook is equipping their students with employability skills. While they do need to master the subject matter to have the foundational knowledge required to land a job in their field, that isn’t everything when it comes to long-term career success.

A study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers shared that while employers thought students were skilled at tech and teamwork, other skills like career management, leadership, and professionalism were lacking, with less than half of employers agreeing that new grads possessed these skills.

So, while students may be learning from the book, they’re not learning the transferable skills that are going to prepare them for success in the workplace — and university professors have the opportunity to lead this revolution. Here’s how.

Ensure “Real World” Readiness

When surveyed by Society for Human Resource Management, only half of students felt prepared for the working world. They wished their school had offered more networking, career fairs, and job-focused learning, rather than just placing focus on their academic work.

These requests are justified. After being told their entire lives that they have to go to college to get a good job, shouldn’t college fully prepare them for that?

It’s not your sole responsibility as an educator to prepare a student for the real world; however, weaving experiences into the curriculum in a way that empowers them to prepare themselves is a good place to start.

If you’re a philosophy professor, set up a panel discussion with lawyers, cultural affairs officers, or marketing managers and have them talk with students about how they use philosophical principles in their roles. Show them how the principles they’re learning can transfer to the real world!

Encourage Conscious Choices and Actions

Perhaps one of the best ways to ensure students are learning throughout their college experience is being the teacher who points out and encourages conscious choices.

How many times do you ask a student to incorporate five sources in a paper without background as to why? Well, many students don’t think about why you asked them to do it. As a teacher, you know that by requiring five sources you’re forcing them to think, process information, learn different viewpoints, and synthesize their own opinions. However, to most students, you’re just trying to make their lives difficult, right?

Explain your reasoning and the skills you’re looking for them to get out of your assignments and lessons. Encourage critical thinking, place value on interpersonal communication and teamwork, and create situations for problem-solving. Students will be better prepared for workplace challenges if their professors incorporate conscious employability skill building into their approach to teaching.

Taking it further, inspire them to think about choices they’re making outside the classroom. They may be on the soccer team, but why? What are they gaining? Most student athletes are unconsciously learning skills like leadership, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and humility. Since they aren’t thinking about it, they don’t grasp how what they’re learning can be applied for a successful future.

Embrace Experiential Learning

Sometimes, the best learning is done outside the classroom. Build Your Future put it well, saying that “hands-on projects toss out the trivia for real, lasting experience.” Students with their nose stuck in textbooks or memorizing stats for a quiz will certainly be book smart, but that isn’t going to necessarily help their employability. In fact, it may hurt it. Students who haven’t had an internship are 16% less likely to get a job offer — they are book smart, but not street smart, not business smart.

Become an internship advisor, lead extracurriculars where students are learning to apply employability skills, or simply guide students to realize that mastering something as simple as managing their weekly schedule is important for their future.

From Student to Young Professional

As an university-level educator, you have the power to transform the future of each student who walks into your classroom. Teach them that there is more to the world than what they read between the pages of a book, challenge them to analyze their surroundings, and empower them to be a holistic learner who is ready for both next week’s test and their first job.

Want tips on how to incorporate employability skill development into your curriculum? Let’s chat.