February 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.
University of Kansas
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy StudiesWebsite
Dr. Joseph Novak: The pandemic has heightened the awareness and in addressing the needs of all stakeholders affiliated with schools. The resulting stress, anxiety, and uncertainty exacerbated by the pandemic has led to a need for more support services for students, staff, and parents. The pandemic has also exposed a lack of training and resources for successful and effective virtual learning. Even though, schools may return to face-to-face learning, the growing use and popularity of virtual learning begs for additional resources and learning. Finally, the pandemic has created a real financial uncertainty for schools. Until the federal, state, and local economies recover and thrive, education will be faced with lay-offs and detriments to needed services.
Dr. Joseph Novak: The obvious technical skills employers in the education field will look for is an entrepreneurial competency in the use of emerging technologies and associated applications to reach students via the virtual venue.
Dr. Joseph Novak: While salaries in the field of education continue to make progress, teacher salaries and pay raises remain below competitive jobs requiring similar levels of education/training.
School of EducationWebsite
Jennifer McCreight: Anyone who has spent time teaching knows that a work day entails an immense amount of pre-planning, ingenuity, patience, energy, and skills in collaboration. Recent graduates will need to embrace this, while adding the challenge of welcoming back learners who may have been learning remotely or in a blended environment over the past year. In order to learn more about the needs of students who have been learning outside of the physical classroom, educators will certainly spend a great deal of time determining each child's growth, as well as the academic challenges they may be facing - and then creating lessons and experiences that will support them.
Just as importantly, teachers will need to support the social and emotional needs of all students in heroic ways, as these learners have persevered through the stresses and grief we've all experienced during the pandemic. As educators we are just learning what this might mean in terms of their needs moving forward. Graduates entering classrooms will need to pay close attention to this, and respond supportively and in partnership with families and colleagues.
Jennifer McCreight: Flexibility and creativity will continue to be the name of the game. Educators entering their first jobs have always demonstrated these dispositions, but will need to do so even more now, as districts will continue to build on the growth in nimbleness that all have had to embody in order to most fully engage learners during this time.
Graduates will also be challenged to identify and enact equitable educational opportunities, as COVID-19 has laid bare issues in access for many young learners. Educational experiences in remote and hybrid environments are inequitable as long as internet access, devices, and spaces to learn are inequitable - and newly graduating teachers will need to continue the work in creatively partnering with colleagues, families, and students to address these needs so that all can participate fully.
Jennifer McCreight: Tech skills have increasingly played a central role in K-12 classrooms, as educators have at their fingertips devices and applications that are incredible assets to learning - from accessibility features, to interactive presentations that gather real-time info on students' understanding of content, to the ability of the students themselves to create videos, podcasts, and more. Teachers entering classrooms must be able to recognize the powerful gains that can be made in students' learning as a result of incorporating technologies, and know when and how to use it to support them. And of course, recent graduates entering classrooms will be expected to move between the platforms of Zoom or Google Meet, to bring in learners who may be at home, and to engage them actively in learning experiences - which is no small task!
Just as importantly, though, as we come out of the pandemic and reckon with children's and adolescents' increased use of screens, educators may also find that we need to use technology in classrooms more sparingly when possible. They will continue to ask themselves, even more urgently than they did pre-pandemic, whether technologies add to educational experiences or complicate them. Graduates will be faced with these questions as they move into their own classrooms, and we joyfully adjust to the eventuality of more in-person learning. This will be a wonderful challenge to face - that is, determining what innovations have resulted from the constraints of the pandemic, and what we will be happy to let go of when we are able. I am sure educators will embrace these conversations with zeal!