April 15, 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.
University of Denver
Morgridge College of EducationWebsite
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: Our graduates will experience positive and negative impacts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Our graduates, like many other across the world, are facing a changing work force that must adapt in real time. Our graduates must be flexible, open, and innovative in order to thrive in the current work force. Our graduates are also dealing with looking after their physical and mental well-being, and that of their loved ones. This puts added pressure on on graduates to navigate a changing world, while maintaining mental and physical health. Our graduates have learned how to use technology in new ways for online teaching and learning. The have learned from the challenges and successes they have experienced navigating online environments and they will use this knowledge to make teaching and learning more powerful. Last, our graduates have become more aware of inequities, such as education and health disparities, that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. They emerge as relentless advocates for marginalized communities.
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: This is a great unknown. Their experience will be dependent on the ever-changing work force and their ability to adapt and innovate.
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: Graduates in Curriculum and Instruction will increase their earning potential by demonstrating that they are innovative and they are able to adapt to changing environments. Moreover, demonstrating an interdisciplinary approach is vital in order to understand the intertwined perspectives and approaches that are necessary to solve community challenges.
William & Mary
Curriculum & InstructionWebsite
Meredith Kier Ph.D.: I think moving forward administrators will look for applicants to demonstrate evidence of adaptability, creativity, and flexibility. Further, teacher candidates will need to show how they are able to use educational technologies to foster connectedness and community building among students. The pandemic has made it evident that teachers are able to flourish amidst countless hurdles to meet the needs of diverse students. It can only be hoped for that this unprecedented event will elevate the profession to show the essential need for teachers in the field.
I think that we will continue to need talented candidates in the field who are prepared in culturally-responsive teaching strategies to promote equitable learning outcomes for students. This being said, it is important for teachers to be supported by their administrators and community to cultivate a network of care for students.
University of Idaho
Department of Curriculum and InstructionWebsite
Taylor Raney Ph.D.: I have two answers for this, one conventional and one perhaps less so. First, we'll need teachers of all levels and disciplines. The work it requires to be useful is significantly greater than this time last year, and teachers are burning out. They're burning out easier because they have the same expectations for student learning and less time with which to impact there. They're burning out because they have students whose parents don't know how to help, so they get frustrated with the teachers. In a nutshell, my prediction is, if you take the current needs and multiply them by 1X, we'll have an increased need across the board by X. So the need for special educators, math, and science teachers will continue to be the biggest one, just more so than before.
The second answer, perhaps less apparent, is the increased need for mental health professionals. That's probably not directly tied to teachers, but schools are already significantly understaffed in this area, so they'll be in even greater demand. There are thousands of kids now not getting the nutrition, academic stimulation, support for mental well-being, etc. They need it without being in schools. The needs that will arise from that will be profound. To curb that, we need more mental health professionals in schools. I don't suspect there will be an increase in the job market for that, though, because that's not something I've ever seen legislators care enough about to put money toward.
Taylor Raney Ph.D.: I don't see any technology becoming more important, aside from perhaps expanded access to high-quality Internet, in the next 3-5 years. As long as technology can connect the people behind it to each other, that's what's going to be necessary to get through the world's current state.
Taylor Raney Ph.D.: An increase, without question. See my answer to #1 above. Teachers are burning out and leaving the profession when they can, not sticking around into retirement age because they love what they're doing.
Teacher Education DepartmentWebsite
Dr. Lynn Baynum Ph.D.: Today's educators are entering a workforce that will forever be impacted by the instructional adaptations tested and adapted during COVID. Teacher candidates looking for employment must enhance their college experiences to reflect the current and future educational climate, including showcasing professional experiences related to technology integration in teaching and learning. Teacher candidates should include certifications or endorsements sponsored by organizations and agencies, such as Google Classroom and/or learning management systems like Canvas. Accounting for such training demonstrates to school district employers that teacher candidates are well prepared for adapting typical face-to-face instruction within an online format.
Teacher candidates with expansive resumes typically reflect a balance of college-level requirements and student-led experiences. Employers typically look for teachers who have had experience working or volunteering in child and adolescent related organizations. Although at home, child care is often typical on teacher candidates' resumes, future teachers should seek employment in before- and after-school agencies or programs sponsored by school districts. Also, employers recognize civic-minded, future teachers' benefits from volunteering in community lead agencies such as food banks, homeless shelters, and athletic coaching opportunities.
Dr. Lynn Baynum Ph.D.: A gap year is typically seen as an opportunity to expand a worldview, yet many teacher candidates do not have the opportunity to study abroad. This should not preclude a future teacher from taking time to expand his/her knowledge and skills in relation to cultural and economic constructs that influence teaching and learning. One way to do so is to enroll in language courses or to work/volunteer in socio-culturally sponsored initiatives. Emersion is key to optimizing the gap year so that the teacher candidates can examine a cultural landscape. Perspective-taking can also break down biased beliefs.
For example, a teacher candidate who volunteers to work in a homeless shelter would begin to understand the factors that impact academic success. Also, teacher candidates can volunteer or work in urban settings with English Language Learners to better understand language acquisition. Fluency in a second language is not required in teacher training, yet conversational understanding of a second language helps a teacher candidate to not only communicate in that language, but also to empathize with English Language Learners. Knowledge of these factors (language acquisition, poverty, equity) enables teacher candidates to not only reflect on learners' needs but also to learn how to advocate for support. In addition, teacher candidates can become well versed in the service agencies aligned with community wellness and safety. In fact, teacher candidates can enroll in such programs as Youth First Aid Mental Health Training and QPR Training (Question, Persuade, Refer) to better recognize links between cognitive and social-emotional development.
Dr. Lynn Baynum Ph.D.: STEM-related fields are expanding, and all teacher candidates need to be able to address STEM-related connections in the classroom. Teachers do not necessarily need STEM certification to be effective STEM leaders in the classroom, but they need expansive skills that integrate science, technology, engineering, and math into an integrated curriculum approach in the humanities.
Our world is ever-changing, so to be sure that educators are optimizing instruction in K-12 classrooms, teachers need to be able to adapt the curriculum to reflect STEM topics within a multi-cultural landscape. For example, math teachers can profile black mathematicians when discussing a math concept. Students can emerge in inquiry or problem-based learning, specific situations that use data to investigate and solve real-world problems. School-age learners, even young children, can learn to computer code, and teacher candidates must be able to not only adapt instruction using digital tools to construct knowledge within a STEM mindset.