Battle Unemployment By Focusing on Youth Career Education

In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, photo, a sign attracts job-seekers during a job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Colonie, N.Y.
In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, photo, a sign attracts job-seekers during a job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Colonie, N.Y. The October employment report the government will release Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 will likely solidify the picture of the U.S. job market that’s emerged this year: Companies are hiring steadily but cautiously. And unemployment remains high. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

With the Federal Reserve predicting unemployment to stay elevated until late 2015, the question for job seekers is, "What do we do moving forward?" But in my opinion, the long-term solution to the problem is looking backward at our educational system's lack of focus on career education.

Students across the U.S. are provided access to career services centers, resume workshops, and personality or aptitude assessments throughout high school and college. But far too many young adults leave school without the proper knowledge or ability to successfully apply for jobs, write cover letters, or think strategically in an interview. According to a Gallup poll, only 18 percent of Americans believe high school graduates are ready for the working world and only little more than half (54 percent) of Americans believe the same for college graduates.

What their definition of "prepared" is, I'm not sure. But I do know that something's missing from our educational system that prepares our students for the real world. In fact, statistics show that our colleges aren't devoting as much money or employees to these resources as they are in areas such as recruitment. In a 2010 study of for-profit colleges, there were 35,202 recruiters employed, compared to 3,512 career services staff and 12,452 support services staff.

What's falling short in the education of young adults on careers, the job search process, and how to find meaningful work? In many cases, our youth have the skills to obtain these jobs, but don't have the know-how to land them.

Here are some suggestions on ensuring our youth obtain the necessary knowledge to be competitive job seekers out of school:

Integrate required careers courses into every student's curriculum. High school seniors and college freshmen or seniors could all benefit from taking required courses that prepare them for the job search. If our high school seniors decide not to pursue college and instead go to a trade school or immediately into the workforce, will they be leaving the educational system with the knowledge to write a cover letter or network? Probably not. Let's give them tangible skills while they are young to use so they can hit the ground running.

Market career counseling at colleges and universities. The disconnect between student and career counselor at colleges and universities is very common. Career counselors proclaim that students just don't understand or realize the breadth of opportunities and services they provide. But if this is the case, make yourselves known and connect with your students. Career services centers should focus on not only providing relevant and timely materials, workshops, and strategies to their students. They should also be proud of these services and be more proactive in reaching out to their students.

Require internships or apprenticeships for graduation. Employers and educators alike can agree that internships are an integral part of landing a job out of college. While some universities already require students to obtain an internship prior to graduation, others only encourage it. But as we all know, an internship can mean the difference between landing a job and being underemployed. High school students should also be encouraged to do the same. While many of these students may not know what their career path is quite yet, require them to shadow a local business or organization in their field of their interest.

Whether our youth realize this or not, they need to learn these skills before graduating and pursuing their first job. Creating jobs for everyone's interests and skill level is only half the battle. Lets create a more valuable degree for our youth by not only giving them the skills necessary to succeed in their industry, but also to navigate their career competitively and knowledgeable in the future.

What else would better prepare young adults for entering the workforce?

Sudy Bharadwaj is a co-founder and the CEO of Jackalope Jobs, a platform that helps job seekers find a job via their social networks. Learn how Sudy and Jackalope Jobs obsess over job seekers by connecting with them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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