October 20, 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.
Saint Xavier University
Oklahoma State University
University of Northern Colorado
The University of Texas at El Paso
Montclair State University
North Central College
Northern Kentucky University
Southern Utah University
Clark Atlanta University
Carolina Christian College
Laura Laskowski-Ferrell: Any experience that job seekers have to pertain to the management of children is key. Examples include camp counseling, tutoring, etc. For new teachers, coursework designed around topics such as assessment and classroom management is important. Any extra-curricular is good to list well, as this could lead to the management of a club or activity depending on the school's need. For experienced practitioners, speak to the classroom experience and tell the story of your career. What grade levels have you taught? What professional development opportunities stand out? Oftentimes, educational administrators are looking for a specific set of qualifications, include any endorsements or certifications you hold for the state in which you plan to practice.
Laura Laskowski-Ferrell: Skills such as effective communication, collaboration, and curiosity are key dispositions for education majors. Seek personal and professional opportunities to enhance these skills. Maintaining connections with children is a plus. Think about substitute teaching or becoming a paraprofessional. There is a genuine need across the country for qualified practitioners in these areas. Consider ways to volunteer, participate in an internship or fellowship opportunity. These experiences allow candidates to use their skills.
Laura Laskowski-Ferrell: As we continue to learn more about how to effectively engage students virtually, products that make this goal more attainable will be important to educators moving forward. I anticipate advancements in personalized learning platforms that both adapt to student needs and allow teachers to target specifics areas of intervention. Technology products, such as interactive games that can fluidly reach across multiple platforms, will also be an important development. Any technology tool that helps students become curators, instead of merely consumers, will continue to be prevalent; coding is a key example. My hope is that many of these products are low to no cost to families, to further close the equity gap that has widened due to our current circumstances.
Douglas R. Hazlett Ph.D.: Assuming that a vaccine returns the world to close to normal, the impact should be minimized. That having been said, the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us that we need to be nimble in transitioning to remote delivery of services for special education students. Addressing individual educational goals for special education students via their IEP is far more challenging than for regular education students when schools move to virtual learning. Additionally, teachers should be prepared to support/assist/instruct parents and/or caregivers on how to support their children. Using social media to support parents can be helpful.
Douglas R. Hazlett Ph.D.: The pandemic has taught us that we need to be current in using educational technologies and moving swiftly from the traditional face-to-face environment to virtual learning. Experience with virtual learning platforms, such as Google Classroom and Zoom, at a proficient level is required. Knowledge of a variety of educational technology tools, such as Nearpod, Kami, Pear Deck, and others, will allow candidates to stand out from their peers.
Douglas R. Hazlett Ph.D.: Ideal candidates for special education positions will have experience across all grade levels, including the entire continuum of special education services. Candidates should have experience writing IEPs using current software, knowledge of assistive technology, experience in parent conferences, and understanding of intervention strategies to increase student achievement. The ideal candidate should have the ability to calmly and collaboratively interact with the special education team (especially parents) to facilitate meetings. Experience as a volunteer working with special populations, such as a summer camp for special needs children, would be beneficial. The ideal candidate should demonstrate a passion for working with special needs children.
Carrie Pierson: Career and employment for recent and not so recent graduates is always a focus. The enduring impact of COVID on the economy is what is going to be something for all to be focused on as we think about the future. When the economy is strong, employers do more hiring, create new positions, and increase the workforce. COVID has impacted some businesses in a very negative way, causing layoffs and closure of businesses, while other employers that are more technology or medical-related, cannot hire enough employees. Coronavirus will have a lasting effect on all of the world for a long time.
Carrie Pierson: Graduates will need to have skills in virtual interviewing. Graduates will need to pay more attention to their body language and show enthusiasm over Zoom or other online platforms. Many employers have found virtual interviewing more convenient and cost-effective.
Graduates will also need to have a designated space available to work from home. The need to be flexible with a hybrid work environment is possible, going into the office one or two days a week and then working the other days remotely.
Carrie Pierson: Any experience that matches or closely relates to the "buzz words" in the job descriptions. The key is for applicants to show how they have transferrable skills and can apply those to the job they are applying for.
Additionally, work experience that stands out are experiences that show diverse experiences and diverse skills, learned from the job. Applicants should use a variety of verbs when describing their different job responsibilities.
Lastly, one key point that has already been mentioned is that applicants will need to show that they are flexible. Especially after 2020 - employers are going to be looking for applicants that excel in being flexible and adaptable.
Lynn Boorady Ph.D.: Remote working, even after the pandemic. People are far more comfortable with online meeting and working, now more than ever. E-Commerce has risen sharply; people have grown more comfortable with shopping this way. However, they still want to be entertained and interact with people, so the retail brick and mortars of the future must be creative and innovative.
Lynn Boorady Ph.D.: Gap year students could travel - become comfortable in different cultures, add to their life experiences, learn from other points of view. This is very important in user-centered design and the internet, allowing you to reach a global consumer base. Students could also increase their computer skills - keep learning applicable software for their interest area. Adobe Creative Suite is a good start, but fashion and interiors also rely on 3D capabilities. Take a freelance position - many of my students received job offers after working freelance for a company. Keep networking - get on LinkedIn, attend the many free or low-cost webinars available from professional companies, meet people already in the field, stay in touch with college friends who are in the industry.
Lynn Boorady Ph.D.: Keep applying! Make a stellar resume; keep upgrading your skills and network. Let your faculty know what you are looking for - we are often called to make a recommendation or to get the word out about a position. If you can't find a full-time job, look for an internship or volunteer at a company for the experience.
Tamara Yakaboski Ph.D.: I hope we will see some redesigning of traditional jobs and paradigms to support learning and working as well as increase equitable access and diversity of opportunities. The pandemic has further brought to light racial and income inequities in our educational systems and communities. Thus, education graduates will need to have a foundational understanding of these inequities and how to create positive change for their communities through their jobs.
I would expect that employers will be attracted even more to employees with high emotional intelligence to help maneuver the changing job market and global economy shifts. High emotional intelligence requires inner/individual work of self-awareness, empathy development, and communication skills, whereas other skills are trainable on the job.
Tamara Yakaboski Ph.D.: Gap years can be intentional opportunities to reflect and retool one's skills and education. While tangible technology skills are a bit obvious in this realm of remote working and schooling, it's critical to combine those skills with how to use technology for human connection and community-building across diverse populations. To do this may require some additional training, credentials, or graduate programs to set one apart from others. Before embarking on additional education, though, I would recommend people inquire how the curriculum develops specific competencies to better prepare graduates or training/certificate completers.
Tamara Yakaboski Ph.D.: Stay connected with your purpose and passion while remaining flexible and adaptable in how you can apply and use your skills, knowledge, and competencies. Look for door opening opportunities with an open mind, rather than a fixed mindset. Develop the capacity to build and support within teams while problem-solving and creating proactive solutions. Reflect on how to adapt learning to be more inclusive and accessible. As people in education and human service-related jobs develop healthy ways to incorporate self-care and rest into your weekly routines. The work that educators do is more demanding now than it ever has been, and requires that we care for ourselves first, so that we can keep showing up to support others day after day.
The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Education
Alyse C. Hachey Ph.D.: The #1 skill/knowledge set that elementary education graduates are going to need in the next couple of years is high levels of responsive classroom management. Given the year spent virtual/semi-virtual, I realize that most people will think that being technologically savvy will be important. And I don't discount that. However, more critical is going to be well-prepared teachers who can help young children re-acclimate to doing school in school. The changing nature of social interaction (and, in many cases, lack of socialization) that young children are facing during the pandemic is likely to have a profound impact on children's social/emotional development for years to come. Teachers engaged in child guidance, based on a deep understanding of relationship building and the know-how to create positive social environments, are going to be key for fostering children's success post-COVID 19.
Dr. Danne Davis: -I see a few trends. One trend is SEL--Socioemotional Learning. Anyone who works with school-age youth, from this point forward, must provide meaningful social and emotional support to learners. In the same way that hunger impedes learning; heartache, stress, and trauma complicate learning. If student success is the desired outcome, moving forward, teachers must address and attend to students' emotional needs throughout the learning cycle. Teacher education programs will need to position all teacher candidates to be responsive to the immediate SE needs and learners' related matters.
-Another trend is the ability to implement meaningful remote learning and assessment. Many education professionals are hobbling along in their instructional delivery. Much of the stumbling is because teachers and school districts are trying to retrofit in-person methods with online processes and digital tools. There will likely be increased demand for researchers and evaluators of all education facets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
-Sir Ken Robinson urges education stakeholders to consider the role of creativity in reform-consider this a third trend. An example of instructional innovation is learning pods-small in-person learning groups, usually but not always, led by an experienced educator. I acknowledge the inherent inequity in learning pods, but I am fascinated by the speed at which families who may have shunned homeschooling in the past have moved with warp speed to create these new learning models. Only time will determine the gains, but future teachers will need to be creative thinkers and doers.
-A fourth trend is consulting learners. Unlike many of their teachers, 21st-century school children have grown up with tech tools and gaming devices. Like, Sir Robinson I too value the input of learners-see Files.
-Lastly, feminist political scientists and outdoor recreational specialists may also be trending.
Dr. Danne Davis: While I embrace technology, I am likely underutilizing its capabilities. Technology, on the horizon, will likely be supported by or interfaced with 5G, perhaps 6G advances. Enhanced Mobile Broadband, Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication, and Massive IoT will likely increase augmented and virtual reality access. As much as I enjoy hardcopy "books," the text will likely shift video and online streaming platforms under 30min. Because much of tech is visual and audio, educators will need to "rev-up" their ability to use AND produce media in these forms. They'll also need to support learners in their tech application.
Dr. Danne Davis: Teacher demand is high. Especially in "high need" underserved areas where economic and social poverty looms, high-speed broadband is inadequate or non-existent, and ineffective teachers exist.
Dr. Jennifer Shah: The best advice I would give right now is to be savvy with technology and to be ready to teach in multiple modalities. Teachers today need to be able to reach learners in person and online and to be able to offer a valuable learning experience, either way. Teaching today also requires flexibility and adaptability. I would advise graduates to think about what endorsements might make them more marketable right now, for example, a middle school endorsement. I would also recommend all graduates continue working with their college professors and classmates as they begin their careers. Having a network of support can be a huge asset. Finally, I would encourage graduates to learn as much as possible about the students they teach and the families and communities they serve, to be a dedicated advocate for students.
Dr. Jennifer Shah: Technology is rapidly changing, every minute, in the 21st century, so this question is tough to answer. Software that was in demand just a few years ago is now obsolete. In the current climate, teachers should navigate online learning platforms such as Google Classroom and Flipgrid and integrate technology into assessments, such as creating a Kahoot! or a Quizlet for their students. Overall, teachers, today must also understand pedagogy related to technology regarding in-person instruction and online instruction. No matter what technology the teacher chooses to use in the classroom or online, the teacher must still be engaging and hold students' attention through their enthusiasm and love for learning.
Dr. Jennifer Shah: Teaching salaries are still not competitive, compared to other careers. Teaching salaries also differ, depending on whether you are teaching in the public or private sector. Salary prospects, down the line, are usually determined by further education and years of service. Teachers who work toward their master's degree move up on the ladder, and the longer they teach, the more they will earn.
Dr. Ginger Blackwell: Teaching is a "people" profession, so most importantly, teachers must care about their students and work well with others. Teaching is also very complex, and the best teachers possess a variety of skills, including the following:
-Effective communication skills
-Time management skills
-The ability to motivate/inspire others
Dr. Ginger Blackwell: There are teaching shortages across the country in all subjects/grade levels but particularly in areas such as special education, secondary math and science, and world languages. Rural and urban school districts often face even more extreme teacher shortages.
Dr. Ginger Blackwell: Technology has always been important in education. The effective use of technology promotes student engagement and allows students to demonstrate their learning in ways they simply could not do without it (such as create a movie, podcast, etc.). The current pandemic, however, has made the technology even more crucial to the educational process. It has changed the way teachers and students interact and allowed students to continue with their education, whereas in the past, this would not have been an option. The pandemic has also emphasized inequities and revealed the importance of ensuring that all students have reliable internet access. In the future, I believe technology will continue to be utilized to offer different learning options to students and parents.
Tony Pellegrini: Flexibility, the willingness and ability to try something new, to try something different. And, you know, who knew what this year was going to be like? No one did. But we've got to be flexible.
We've got to be creative. We've got to be open to new opportunities. Being forced to do things in a different way isn't necessarily bad. It's a way for us to be able to learn and grow and develop. And, I think, that's one thing that our young graduates are going to need when they enter the workforce, and in particular, good places in the United States for graduates to find work opportunities. We're teaching teachers. And so there's going to be children just about everywhere.
Tony Pellegrini: But wherever there are children, there's going to be a need for being flexible to be able to teach not only in a face-to-face format but using technology tools such as this to be able to reach out and connect with and engage with learners. So not just where you're going to move, but how you're going to interact and connect with your learners; even if you have face-to-face learners, there may be some that are homesick, or you're homesick, and you need to communicate with them.
Tony Pellegrini: So it's really, really frightening, to your question about how is technology going to impact; technology is going to be our lifeblood for the next five years, and beyond, where we've got great ideas to appear in our minds, and we've got to be able to communicate and get those out to our learners and understand where learners are coming from, that two-way street needs to really happen.
Clark Atlanta University
Department of Educational Leadership
Dr. Chike Akua Ph.D.: Now more than ever, highly competent educational leaders are needed in America's schools. Today's educational leaders must be innovative problem solvers who are creative and critical thinking agents of transformation to serve diverse and historically underrepresented populations. Today's educational leaders must be able to lead teams of educators, students, and parents with character and high ethical standards, cultural competence and deep commitment. Lastly, today's educational leaders must be highly adaptable to current challenges and lead teams to solve complex logistical problems toward providing equitable education in diverse urban communities.
T. Tyrone Tyson: The need for qualified employees with multiple skill sets is indispensable in the 21st century and beyond. Technology, administration, and organizational skills are now a given. Career paths are becoming much more globalized, especially in Biblical studies, which means employees must be adept in soft skills and linguistics. Global missions are increasing in size and scope, and the demand for those with an acute sense of cultural sensitivity is in high order. The ability to navigate cultural differences and communication methods, while maintaining a high level of interpersonal skills, is essential to graduates' success.
T. Tyrone Tyson: Despite the fact, Biblical studies may seem to be a very narrow field in terms of a global economy. The interpersonal, cultural, and soft skills embedded in Biblical studies' discipline can be valuable in several career paths. For example, besides the apparent teaching and pastoring route, many global companies use diversity officers who require the same innate skill set at the core of Biblical studies. The United Nations, for example, currently is seeing candidates to fill the position of Chief of Diversity and Engagement. Among the many responsibilities is one that lies at the base of the place and the Biblical Studies discipline, "Demonstrated ability to share knowledge and experience, identify and disseminate good practices, and work effectively in a team setting and across organizational, cultural and national boundaries." These positions are typical in metropolitan areas such as New York, Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
T. Tyrone Tyson: Biblical studies and technology have traditionally been the antithesis of each other. One would often imagine a vast, dusty library with a Biblical scholar's head planted in the stack of books or a Sunday school teacher with a well-worn Bible and a dusty chalkboard. Although those images are nostalgic, it does not represent the future of Biblical studies. Technology will have an indispensable role in the future of Biblical studies. Communication technology, such as Zoom, allows access to a global sphere that once could only be facilitated by phone, letter, or face to face. Also, the almost limitless internet applications allow Biblical studies graduates to publish to the global community discoveries in archeology, history, translations, extinct languages, and modern moral interpretation that would be overlooked decades ago.