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Connecting the Career Dots: Students Speak Series Starts Important Conversation with Students and Business Leaders in Detroit

WARRENDALE, Pa., March 9, 2015 -

In February, a group of business and student leaders attended the Students Speak Series in Detroit hosted by the National Campus Leadership Council, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Innovation Network for Southeast Michigan. The event brought together students and business leaders for an interesting conversation about workforce readiness. It was very interesting to hear the comments and opinions of the student leadership, but the clear message to me was that most [students] did not feel fully prepared to enter into the recruitment process at the start of their professional careers. 

What became apparent to the student group from the business leaders was that the academic qualification is only a part of the holistic skills set required by employers.  A level of hands on experience is another essential element, as employers are looking for a well-rounded individual that can effectively work in teams and can deliver. 

What also seemed to be lacking was specific knowledge and insight into the recruitment process including resume development and interview experience, both being key components.

While it is important that students look beyond academic studies, institutions of higher education need to be effective in giving career advice and guidance at several levels:

·         High School with future career and academic options, based upon future industry needs to be outlined

·         College admissions process needs to include career options based upon different academic roadmaps, which should then be linked to:

·         Post academic careers advice linking the qualified student with the more immediate needs of the respective industries. 

Overall this is joining the ‘career dots’, from high school to professional career.

The effective role of industry or local businesses is to be a collaborative partner with the education system through these levels providing short to long-term requirements.   A key component of this collaborative partnership is internships, which were seen by the group to give the students valuable experience and a perspective of industry.  In the process of joining the career dots, I see the level of ‘internship’ extending from high school student to academic faculty, giving each level of the education system appropriate details to give a perspective of the business and industry to both attract, train and guide future employees.  An essential element is for those who will give career advice from academia to have a greater appreciation, experience and access to future business needs. 

Another important piece of the partnership is mentoring, which is a very effect individual method where experienced and relatively older individuals provide guidance and direction.  Another possible area to increase effectiveness and relevance would be to include younger mentors set up more like a ‘buddy system’ with students where they can more directly relate to the situation and provide guidance through the early career stages.

Overall, a more effective collaborative approach between education and business will attract more people to areas of interest and industry need and also result in more focused and prepared graduates.


By Andrew Smart, Director Society Programs and Industry Relations, SAE International