February 3, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Thomas Jones: The enduring impact for employment opportunities created by the COVID crisis may be felt across many academic disciplines, particularly at the undergraduate level. Students with undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees will not face challenges, it appears. In fact, there seems to be increasing demand across the board for STEM graduates at starting salaries similar to recent past years. The demand for business, business related economics, computer technology and information systems, and accounting graduates at both the graduate and undergraduate levels remains strong, particularly at the graduate level. Liberal arts, education, health and exercise science, and religion graduates (to identify a few) at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are facing a completely different reality, it appears. Because of declining job demand for these graduates, many will find job placement difficult and, in many cases will need to seek temporary employment in jobs not requiring college educations.
No one really knows what the long-term impact of working from home will be. And the timing for large numbers of students returning to large classrooms is also an unknown. Both of these events may have significant ramifications. For instance, if large numbers of employees do not return to the downtown office, the economic impact could be massive. Commercial real estate, transportation related industries, restaurants, office equipment manufacturing and sales, city tax bases, and a host of other issues will come into play. We are already seeing cities such as New York attempting to tax the earnings of employees at home in other states. If learning online becomes the norm for some portion of the K-12 experience or in higher education, there will be similar upheavals that will be devastating for some players in the academic world. How this plays out across time is anyone's guess. But for the current graduate without a STEM, computer, or business related degree, the market may remain tight for some time to come. Another, rarely addressed issue, is learning to communicate with other age groups. Coming from liberal arts and non-professional education is creating, for many, a significant inability to effectively communicate with other age groups. This has been a topic addressed by top executives and major consulting firms for several years. This is a factor, not related to COVID, that lessens job opportunities for many current college graduates.
This also points out the critical importance of mastering computer technology for all graduates. Working from home carries with it an implicit ability with computer technology. An understanding of windows, Power Pont, some kind of spread-sheet ability, and an understanding of Zoom or similar technologies (along with key-board skills right now), is the base requirement to work from home. Technology is moving in the direction of language translation so key-board skills may become a thing of the past but not for today's graduate. Lower skill level jobs are rarely doable from home and this creates another set of issues, not related to the challenges being faced by graduates from today's institutions of higher education.