April 13, 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.
Janiece Kneppe: I would say yes, there is an enduring impact on each of us from the coronavirus pandemic. As human beings we have these lived experiences unique to our time and place in history that influences our behaviors, beliefs, and identity. My parents grew up during the Great Depression in the U.S. and came of age during WWII and the Korean War. These lived experiences impacted how they lived their lives and raised their children. I grew up in the 60's and 70's-I lived in the Vietnam War era, saw the first people in space and land on the moon, technology exploded during the latter half of the 20th Century (e.g. development of the telephone to cell phones, Oye!). These lived experiences have impacted my identity, my life, and how I raised my children. So too, our graduates, and the children today who have experienced the coronavirus pandemic, will see enduring impacts around how they relate to people socially and emotionally. And not just them, but all people today have learned and are still learning how to adjust to interpersonal relationships and skills because of the social distancing put into place to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our communities. Our graduates have learned skills with regards to virtual learning (particularly persistence, and perseverance) that will help them face new challenges as they enter the workforce and their own places in society. A key thing to remember is that we are all living with trauma right now (to greater or lesser degrees). How we cope, the resilience we build for ourselves, will greatly impact how we come out of this coronavirus pandemic as individuals and as a society.
Janiece Kneppe: Probably much as it always has in early care and education-meeting and greeting families, caring for and educating the children in our settings, learning to work together with other individuals. Three of the greatest challenges that a recent graduate will face includes figuring out behavior management with the children, learning how to work effectively and professionally with their co-workers, and with the families, and recognize their own roles in supporting high-quality programming for children and their families given the heighten requirements for health and safety, teaching in an inclusive and culturally responsive manner that recognizes equity, access, and participation in high quality early care and education programs. These are daunting challenges individually, but put them all together in a single setting with limited resources and support for teachers and you will see why so many people in this field burn out and leave early childhood as a profession. Learning how to build your community of practice to support yourself and your colleagues is the buffer needed to meet and overcome these challenges.
Janiece Kneppe: The short answer is to be willing to invest in your own sense of professionalism and your career. Be willing to pursue formal education because it opens doors to new roles and challenges that are often accompanied with more pay. Be willing to invest in attending professional development workshops and conferences because this is how we stay current with the research and information that continues to expand as we learn more about developmental psychology and child development. Be courageous and ask for more responsibilities in the workplace and then follow through and meet the tasks given to the best of your ability. We learn best when we stretch ourselves to grow like this! And become a member of a professional organization like NAEYC, Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Zero To Three Organization, National Head Start Association (NHSA), or National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). Being connected with a professional organization will support an individual's sense of public presentation where he or she can articulate what we are doing and why we are doing it (the value of ECE), to advocate on behalf of children and their families, and share his or her professional judgement, that is the application of professional knowledge, professional experiences, and ethical behaviors, with a wider audience.
Steven Ross Ph.D.: I think trends will be quite variable depending on one's role. Traditional higher education roles of teaching and publishing seem likely to diminish given strained college budgets and increasing online and competition from alternative certification/degree programs for college students. Research centers/organizations within and outside universities, on the other hand, may have increased openings over time, perhaps less due to pandemic impacts than to the continually increasing demands for research evidence to support interventions and for data in general to support decision making.
Steven Ross Ph.D.: Research findings are complex and nuanced. It is rare that program evaluation studies yield clear results that are interpreted the same ways by all consumers and stakeholders. A researcher/evaluator needs to be an effective communicator, open to alternative views of findings and their implications for practice. Soft skills are also needed to partner effectively and mutually with schools and practitioners on meaningful studies. Obviously, many soft skills are needed for effective teaching in higher ed.
Steven Ross Ph.D.: They seem mostly flat to me.