Survey: Employers covet grads with real-world experience

A new national survey has found that employers con­sider mean­ingful pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence a must for recent col­lege graduates—a con­clu­sion that aligns with Northeastern’s lead­er­ship in expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion that inte­grates class­room learning with real-​​world experience.

In the survey, com­mis­sioned by The Chron­icle of Higher Edu­ca­tion and the Amer­ican Public Media’s Mar­ket­place and pub­lished this week, employers indi­cated than intern­ship expe­ri­ence is the single most impor­tant cre­den­tial employers look for. Fur­ther­more, more than half of employers reported they had trouble finding recent grad­u­ates qual­i­fied enough to fill posi­tions at their com­pa­nies or organizations.

The find­ings rein­force the extra­or­di­nary impact of Northeastern’s experiential-​​learning model, including its sig­na­ture global co-​​op pro­gram. In fact, more than 7,000 stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in co-​​op each year at more than 2,900 employers world­wide. Stu­dents do co-​​op, study abroad, faculty-​​led study abroad, and research in 92 coun­tries and on all continents.

“What sets North­eastern apart is our absolute com­mit­ment to inte­grating the expe­ri­en­tial aspects of our global co-​​op pro­gram with the uncom­pro­mising quality of our aca­d­e­mics,” said Bruce Ronkin, Northeastern’s vice provost for under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion. “Stu­dents pre­pare for co-​​op in the classroom—intellectually and pro­fes­sion­ally. Then they head out across the globe for six months of pro­fes­sional work expe­ri­ence. When stu­dents return to school they bring back a world of expe­ri­ences into the class­room that enrich and guide their con­tinued devel­op­ment as inno­va­tors, entre­pre­neurs, artists, and professionals.”

The Chronicle-​​Marketplace survey is not the only national poll gaging what employers are looking for in an appli­cant pool of recent grad­u­ates. The National Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­leges and Employers’ 2013 Job Out­look Survey found that about 60 per­cent of employers sur­veyed favor expe­ri­ence gained through an intern­ship or co-​​op. Northeastern’s own national opinion poll found recently that the over­whelming majority of respon­dents believe that coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion better pre­pares stu­dents for pro­fes­sional careers.

Susan Ambrose, vice provost for teaching and learning and pro­fessor of edu­ca­tion, empha­sized how co-​​op and other experiential-​​learning venues serve help stu­dents achieve both intel­lec­tual and pro­fes­sional goals. “True learning is the ability to use what you know—facts, con­cepts, approaches, theories—flexibly in new con­texts, and expe­ri­en­tial learning pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties to do just this,” Ambrose said. “We pro­mote and create the con­di­tions for robust, deep, and flex­ible learning that will pre­pare our stu­dents for a life of ful­fill­ment and accom­plish­ment in a world that is con­tin­u­ally changing.”

North­eastern has been praised in recent years for its suc­cess in preparing stu­dents to pursue mean­ingful careers. Ninety per­cent of the university’s grad­u­ates are employed full-​​time or enrolled in grad­uate school nine months after grad­u­a­tion. Eighty-​​seven per­cent full-​​time employed grad­u­ates are doing work that is related to their major. Within that group, 50 per­cent received a job offer from a pre­vious co-​​op employer. Fur­ther­more, Northeastern’s Career Ser­vices were ranked best in the country by The Princeton Review.