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Unemployment And Underemployment Among College Graduates

“It is expected that the number of jobs requiring a college education will increase in the next decade, [and] it is also forecast that unemployment and underemployment will increase among college graduates because of a mismatch between their skills and the demands of the workplace” (as cited by Johnston & Packer, 1987, in Brown, 2003, 363). To prevent this, colleges should attempt to meet their students’ career development needs. According to Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2002, 335), this entails a two part process, helping students with career development in college and for life after college. As Zunker (2006) puts it, “career development is never over!” (437); throughout our life we deal with various aspects of work and its implications.

Nationally, colleges can adhere to a set of twelve competencies and indicators for each of these competencies that adults should acquire for work and lifestyle preparation (Zunker, 2006, 438). Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2002, 335) explain that these competencies, known as the National Career Development Guidelines were developed by the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee. The guidelines are separated into the following three categories, self-knowledge, educational and occupational exploration, and career planning. Under the first category of self-knowledge, college students need to learn skills in maintaining positive self-concepts, effective behaviors, and understanding developmental changes and transitions. Adults need “an accurate understanding of their strengths, interests, abilities, and values . . . [and] understand how these important self-characteristics influence their career decisions” (335). They need to be able to care for themselves and understand that physical changes and external events may affect their work. Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey state that many colleges make use of interest inventories, personality measures, career maturity measures, career planning courses, and computer-assisted career guidance systems to enhance students’ self-knowledge (336). The second category of exploration includes entering and participating in education, training, work and life-long learning; knowing what to do with career information and how to acquire jobs; and how society influences work. The indicators of this category according to Zunker (2006, 440), include confidence in one’s abilities and understanding how to use community resources such as child care to support one’s educational achievement. To implement these skills, Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2002, 337) write that colleges’ make use of stocked career libraries, job shadowing, and career planning courses. The final category of career planning includes skills necessary in making decisions, understanding how work affects lives, how males’ and females’ roles change, and the transitions found in careers. To make career related decisions, individuals need an understanding of “intraindividual characteristics (e.g. skills, values, interests, personality traits) and extraindividual factors (e.g., demands from non-work life roles, accessibility of training opportunities, financial resources, family support)” (337). This can be accomplished through career planning courses, workshops, and counseling.

The national competencies serve as a guide to teaching college students the skills they will need to navigate their careers. Service delivery is also based on various program models. One model discussed by Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2002, 339) is Powell and Kirks’ (1980) awareness programming approach. This approach starts off with a description by upper classmen and career service staff about the career development process and available services (340). This lecture is provided to a large group of students, and then smaller groups break off to answer any questions students may have. Referrals can then be made to services such as career counseling and career planning classes. The second stage entails having small groups of students watch an informational tape about upper classmen who have used the career services provided on campus. These students then pick which resources may benefit them. The third stage entails integrating self-assessment and occupational information with career exploration activities. These activities may include “career courses in which alumni and local business leaders link educational and career information . . . they identify how academic subjects are relevant for various occupations” (340). This is important because as Brown (2003) writes, specialists need to “help students choose careers that appear to have little relevance to their majors” (365). Not all majors are easily linked to a career. Nursing majors may become nurses but communication majors can work in a variety of avenues. The last stage starts with engaging seniors in a broad discussion of placement services. Then students are broken up by major for small-group sessions. These sessions “focus on the specifics of job searching . . . resume writing, mock interviewing, accessing information about job opportunities” (340). Powell and Kirks’ assessment model allows for students to experience a range of skills necessary for career development.

Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2002, 340) write that another model used to help students develop their career skill set is the Florida State model in place at Florida State University. This model is a curricular career information service model, abbreviated CCIS. According to Zunker (2006), this program focuses on “an instructional approach to career planning services” (443). The CCIS is a sixteen module process. Students start with engaging in a short interview then watching a slide presentation that explains the CCIS. The second module, “What’s involved in making a career decision?” (444), focuses on career planning. Module three, “Looking at You” (444) makes use of self-assessments. In the fourth module, “Information: Where to Find It and How to Use It” (444) again uses a power point presentation. The fifth module “Matching Majors and Jobs” (444), looks at what one can do with a particular major. The remaining modules cover topics related to leisure planning, career planning for certain population groups, and employment outlooks (443). Since the CCIS is self-help oriented, Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2002) assert that it “allows students to direct their learning about career planning and manage their own career development” (341).

As Brown (2003, 363) states, two-thirds of college students are nontraditional (as cited in deBlois, 1992), meaning that they may be older, returning from the workforce, etc. Further, students of various ethnicities, with disabilities, and of various sexual orientations are becoming more prevalent. Regardless of these various student population needs, Brown points out “that groups of students share common needs, and career development services . . . should include: career and self-awareness activities; exploration of interests, values, goals, and decisions; realities of the job market and future trends; practical, accurate information about careers; workshops that deal with special needs such as risk taking, resume development, interviewing, and so forth; an academic advising system that makes it possible for students to get the assistance they need in academic planning” (as cited in Griff, 1987, 364). Many of these services were indeed utilized in the models discussed earlier.

Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2002) state “career planning is a developmental process . . . to aid students in developing, evaluating, and effectively initiating and implementing career plans” (344). To be effective, colleges and counselors need to be proactive from the time when students’ first enter the campus. Developing one’s career knowledge and skills takes time.

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