Some colleges and universities are boldly guaranteeing their students future employment. While this may sound too good to be true, a lot goes into honoring this promise.
Career services departments have always played a critical role in ensuring that students are prepared for the job market and in helping them find employment after graduation. Behind the scenes, career services departments are working tirelessly to help students achieve their career goals and secure employment after graduation.
With the addition of job guarantees, these departments are tasked with an even greater responsibility to help students meet program requirements and secure a job.
So, before we debate good or bad, maybe we should ask: Is it even plausible? Let’s get the context first, then explore the advantages and disadvantages of such a pledge.
In recent years, colleges and universities have offered their students a "guarantee" of post-graduation employment if they meet specific minimum requirements. While these job guarantees can be a selling point for institutions and a source of comfort for students, they can also significantly impact career services departments.
A Primary “Why” and “Why Not”
As the job market continues to become increasingly competitive, students must clearly demonstrate to potential employers that they have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their chosen industry. A commitment from a college or university, in the form of a job guarantee, can reassure that a student is investing in a quality education and will be well-prepared for the job market upon graduation.
Career services departments play a critical role in ensuring that students are prepared for the job market and in helping them find employment after graduation. However, these teams can't control variables like economic factors or industry trends on top of young adults' changing goals.
Career services in the middle
Career services departments have always been a critical component of the college experience, offering students resources, guidance, and support as they navigate the job market. But with the rise of the employment guarantee, these departments have become even more important.
Demand exceeding resources
One of the significant impacts that job guarantees have on career services departments is increased demand for their services. With the guarantee in place, students are more likely to seek out career services to help them meet the requirements and prepare them for the job market. While this initially seems beneficial, this increased demand for services can strain career services departments that may already be under-resourced.
Career services departments may need to expand their resources and staff to meet this increased demand. This may include hiring additional career counselors, offering more workshops and networking events, and providing more resources for job search and resume writing. However, expanding these resources can be expensive and may require additional funding from the institution.
The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the tracking and verifying
Another impact of job guarantees on career services departments is the need to track and verify employment outcomes. Institutions offering job guarantees need to have a system in place to monitor and verify the employment outcomes of their graduates. However, this process can be complex and time-consuming, especially for institutions with large student populations. As a result, career services departments may need to dedicate significant resources to this effort, including hiring additional staff or purchasing new technology (despite decreasing budgets) to manage tracking and verification.
Gotta have those employer and recruiter relationships
In addition to the increased demand for services and the need for tracking and verification, job guarantees can also impact the relationship between career services departments and employers. With the guarantee in place, career services departments may need to build stronger relationships with employers to ensure access to enough job opportunities for their graduates. This may involve working with employers to identify job openings, building partnerships with local businesses, and developing internship and co-op programs to give students hands-on experience in their field of study.
But there’s good news for career services, too
Clear and measurable goals for the department to work towards can help build stronger partnerships with employers. It can also lead to greater engagement from students and alums, who may be more likely to seek career services for support in their job search.
Career services departments can mitigate some challenges associated with guaranteed job programs by working closely with the academic departments to ensure students are prepared for the job market. This may involve partnering with professors and deans to provide career-related coursework and integrate career development into the curriculum. By working together, career services and academic departments can best prepare students for the job market and meet the requirements of the job guarantee programs.
Disadvantages Outside of Career Services
The first disadvantage is that it incentivizes students to choose their major based on the job market rather than their interests and passions. By limiting job guarantees to specific majors, students are more likely to focus on courses and training tracts that promise the most job prospects and the highest salaries rather than those they are genuinely passionate about or have the skills to succeed.
Providing a guarantee of employment to graduates can place unrealistic expectations on faculty and college staff tasked with preparing students for the job market.
Colleges and universities that guarantee employment may resort to unethical practices to ensure their graduates secure jobs. Additionally, it could pressure students into accepting less appealing offers or roles for which they're less suited. This can lead businesses to hire unqualified individuals and create tension between employers and schools.
Things change – costs increase
The job market may change before graduation, leading to increased financial risk for the university and a poor student experience. In addition, promising jobs could increase tuition to cover the cost of the program and the potential legal implications of not finding a job for graduates.
The job market can be competitive, and there may not be enough job opportunities available in specific industries to accommodate all graduates from a particular institution. Therefore, guaranteeing students' jobs can lead to an unrealistic expectation of the job market, resulting in students being unprepared for the competitive nature of the job search process.
Universities and colleges nationwide are either considering or offering employment guarantee programs. Career services departments implement and oversee these student-centric opportunities. The definition of "guaranteed" varies by institution. Still, generally speaking, if a participating student who completed all of the recommended steps cannot find a job within a specified time frame, the school provides additional support and resources.
Enrolling more students, a potential benefit of these programs is clearly advantageous for the school. As is boosting revenue or degrees increasing in value as a school gains attention and prominence. And creating a sense of security about future employment helps ease students' (and parents'!) worries about finding a job after graduation.
So, if guaranteeing jobs is a strong selling point, maybe the program is a good thing presuming universities and colleges set strict enough qualifications? The programs are too new to support extensive or longitudinal research. But if institutions support Career Services with the necessary added resources, we're likely to see more guaranteed job programs in schools of all sizes.